Cablegate: Turkey: Ruling Akp to Try to Overcome Closure Case
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 000536
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/18/2018
TAGS: PGOV TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: RULING AKP TO TRY TO OVERCOME CLOSURE CASE
BY AMENDING CONSTITUTION
REF: ANKARA 526 AND PREVIOUS
Classified By: PolCouns Janice G Weiner, reasons 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) Summary: Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is drafting a mini-constitutional amendment package to attempt to overcome the closure case filed against it in Constitutional Court. The package will include a temporary clause that would wipe out existing closure cases, including against the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP). If necessary, the GOT would be prepared to take the package to referendum. End summary.
2. (C) xxxxx told us March 19 the party is hard at work on a mini-constitutional amendment package. The party sees the closure case as political in nature. Its intent, he stated, is to decapitate the party and ban PM Erdogan from politics. By the weekend, a small AKP committee will have drafted a package to deal with future party closure cases; it will include a temporary article intended to eliminate existing closure cases, including the case against the DTP. AKP will then sit down and talk with the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) in parliament, which, according to MHP General Secretary Cihan Pacaci, is drafting its own package. Pacaci will speak to MHP's proposal on the floor of parliament March 20, in a manner designed to condemn party closures in general and avoid the specifics of existing cases.
3. (C) With respect to the concern voiced by many that the current case is “untouchable” because Article 138 of the Constitution prohibits legislative activity on ongoing cases, xxxxx said that much in the large body of legislation parliament has passed in AKP's five years in government has touched on issues before the courts. It is a basic principle of Turkish law that if a new provision works in someone's favor, the person may benefit from it; if it would work against the person, it does not apply. They will forge ahead.
4. (C) xxxxx AKP will work at a compromise with MHP; if that is not possible, AKP will push the package through parliament. AKP on its own (likely with DTP, which stands to benefit) has more than the 330 votes required to send a constitutional amendment package to referendum. Pacaci, who claimed to know the contents of the AKP package, said he did not like it. He confirmed that in the absence of agreement with MHP (which would give the package a vote total that would obviate the need for a referendum), AKP would likely send it to referendum.
5. (C) Asked whether AKP, in pushing such a package, was not playing with fire, xxxxx responded the party had concluded it would be more dangerous for the country to go through another prolonged period of political and economic instability and uncertainty than to face this head on. It was preferable to take abrupt, decisive action to cut off the closures cases; then the GOT could proceed with its agenda. He did not believe this was a matter in which the military would interfere. Both xxxxx to us that AKP had made mistakes, including failure actively to push its parliamentary agenda in recent months, and its failure when it dealt with Article 69 on party closures in 2005 to limit the Chief Prosecutor's sole discretion to file a closure case. But the party did not deserve to be closed, nor did the 47% of the people who had voted for AKP.
6. (C) Comment: The AKP appears determined to fight this head on. This is well-aligned with PM Erdogan's street-fighter instincts, and with the party's reaction to the April 27, 2007 e-coup. They are indeed playing with fire - but to be fair, the fire was lit under them first. If the package moves through parliament to referendum, it is hard to believe it would not garner a solid majority.
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