Turkey: PM, opposition CHP agree to change constitution

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ANKARA

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party and opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, have agreed on Wednesday to work together to change the country’s current constitution.

Prime Minister and chairman of AK Party Ahmet Davutoglu led the meeting with CHP officials, including leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, in Ankara. The new constitution was the main issue of the discussion, which lasted over two hours.

“There has been an agreement over a need to change the existing constitution,” AK Party deputy chairman and spokesman Omer Celik told press members after the meeting. “The new constitution will be Turkey’s identity card. It will also be a roadmap for Turkey towards 2023.”

The current constitution was drafted in 1982 following a military takeover and has undergone several amendments since.

“In order to reach a high level of democracy, there is a need to remove the obstacles of Sept. 12 [of the 1982 coup] constitution. […] There is an agreement over this subject,” the CHP’s deputy chairman and spokesman Haluk Koc told during a separate press conference in the capital.

AK Party highlighted the importance of a presidential system for guaranteeing basic rights and liberties and judicial independence in Turkey during the gathering, Celik said, during the press conference.

With a new constitution, AK Party aims to replace the current parliamentary system with a presidential system.

CHP did not change its position over the presidential system, spokesman Koc said. CHP supports a parliamentary system.

The eventuality of a new constitution was widely debated in the June general election. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had made an executive presidential system a major issue, but AK Party had not won a majority to form a government or to adopt a constitutional change.

The country held a snap election in November, in which AK Party managed to claim a majority to form a government.

Although it regained its parliamentary majority on Nov. 1, general election, AK Party was 13 seats short of the number (330) needed to push through a referendum on constitutional reform.

As part of negotiations with opposition party officials, Davutoglu’s next meeting will be with Devlet Bahceli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, on Jan. 4, 2016.

However, he will not meet with officials from Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) – which garners most of its support from the Kurdish southeast – because of its stance over the fighting against terrorism.

Anti-terrorist operations have been ongoing in the southeast since July, when PKK – considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU – resumed its armed campaign.

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