Turkish politicians are already eyeing the post-referendum period set to follow Sunday’s much-contested vote, a new era in which controversial issues such as terrorism and the Kurdish question are likely to top the agenda.
The result of the Sept. 12 referendum on proposed constitutional changes, the subject of months of heated campaigning by the country’s political parties, will be the main element in determining the parameters of this new era. But the government’s relations with the judiciary and the military, its struggles with the opposition over its Kurdish initiative, the fight against terror and the headscarf issue could all fuel tensions in the country.
For the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, the most critical decision in the post-referendum era will be whether or not to try to bring the headscarf issue back onto the country’s agenda. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan openly asked for support from the opposition parties in allowing the headscarf at public universities following statements by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, head of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, claiming that he would be the one to solve the issue.
The CHP had previously appealed successfully to the Constitutional Court in 2008 to block an AKP-led constitutional amendment on the headscarf issue.
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The continuation of the Kurdish initiative is a near-certainty as the ruling party wants to keep the momentum going until next year’s general election, creating expectations that the AKP might consider taking some new steps to address the concerns of Kurdish people. Coupled with these efforts, the government has to take steps forward in the country’s negotiation process with the European Union. Turkey’s objection to opening its ports and airports to Greek Cyprus is seen as a potential source of crisis if reunification talks between Turkish and Greek Cypriots do not bring about a solution.
Depending on the referendum results, some political observers have also speculated that Erdoğan might consider making changes in his Cabinet.
Another top issue that will dominate Turkey’s busy agenda in the post-referendum period is the ongoing fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. The cease-fire unilaterally declared by the PKK will end Sept. 20 and the government has already been working on a new law that would allow the establishment of some professional military units to be stationed on the Iraqi border.
As it was during the referendum campaigns, the anti-terror fight will likely also be accompanied by further debate on democratic autonomy for Kurds and a new administrative model proposed by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP. The party will no doubt make the issue its top priority and seek every opportunity to have the issue broadly debated.
The CHP’s busy agenda
CHP chief Kılıçdaroğlu, who was one of the most active leaders during the referendum campaign, will have to deal with his busy agenda on three main fronts. Elected as the new party head only four months ago, Kılıçdaroğlu is still trying to strengthen his position in the CHP, as former chief Deniz Baykal has not hidden his ambition to retake his position. Inner-party adjustments seem unavoidable for Kılıçdaroğlu during this period.
The CHP leader’s immediate action after the referendum, however, will likely concentrate on mending ties with European socialist groups. He will travel to Brussels on Sept. 15 and to Berlin on Sept. 19 to hold talks with representatives of socialist parties.
With the opening of Parliament on Oct. 1, the CHP is also expected to take its proposal of removing Article 35 of the military law that organizes the operations of the army to the agenda of Parliament, likely by introducing a draft law on the issue.
Hürriyet Daily News