The government of Turkey could take a step back on draft legislation to tighten the ruling party's grip on the judiciary contingent on some give-and-take from the opposition, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
"If the opposition offers to make a joint constitutional amendment, then we will freeze the bill, if needed; we won't take it to the General Assembly. Today's meetings will be determinant here," said the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) leader, addressing a parliamentary group meeting of his party.
"During the work on drafting a new Constitution, the HSYK [the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors] issue proceeded to a certain point," Erdogan said, referring to the work by the now-dissolved parliamentary Constitution Conciliation Commission.
The meetings Erdogan referred to were held by Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, along with AKP deputy parliamentary group chair Nurettin Canikli. The two held meetings with the deputy parliamentary group chairs of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).
"The constitutional amendment is far beyond legal amendments. Exactly like in the case with the RTUK [the Radio and Television Supreme Council], the groups at the Parliament will find [places] on the HSYK according to [the numbers in Parliament]," said Erdogan.
RTUK has nine members elected by Parliament for a period of six years from a pool of candidates nominated by political parties, in proportion to the number of seats they hold in the legislature.
"If we can pass a constitutional amendment of a few articles, we will freeze legal arrangement work and move on our way with a constitutional amendment," Erdogan said.
The move by the government came a day after President Abdullah Gul took the initiative and held a series of meetings with both Erdogan and the opposition leaders in a bid to defuse the row over the judiciary stemming from a damaging corruption scandal.
The proposed legislation, seen by critics as a bid to head off a widening corruption probe that has rocked the government to its core, has come under fire from the domestic opposition as well as the European Union and the United States.
Gul has personally intervened to try to end the latest crisis to confront the government just weeks before the country goes to the polls in municipal elections in March.
Meanwhile, Gul held a meeting yesterday with Ali Alkan, head of the Supreme Court of Appeals.
After meeting with the AKP delegation, along with fellow colleagues Engin Altay and Muharrem Ince, CHP deputy parliamentary group chair Akif Hamzacebi sounded receptive to the proposal from the ruling party.
The proposal outlined a joint commission work either with the participation of three or four political parties, Hamzacebi said, adding that it also included the option for a commission solely composed of the AKP and the CHP.
Echoing what CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu already stated Jan. 13, Hamzacebi said they told the AKP delegation that in addition to the withdrawal of the bill from Parliament, they would also insist that the government give assurances that it would allow for the proceeding of corruption and graft investigations.
They will present the AKP's proposal to the CHP's Central Executive Board (MYK) and Kilicdaroglu, Hamzacebi said, noting that the issue would be discussed at the next MYK meeting, either today or tomorrow.
Contrary to the CHP, the MHP was rigid, with deputy parliamentary group chair Oktay Vural stating that the party did not find a constitutional amendment about the HSYK appropriate given the incidents Turkey has been experiencing.
"As the MHP, we have stated that we don't find such constitutional amendment appropriate, that bribery and corruption investigation which is in the judicial process should continue, and that such an intervention could particularly aim at intervening in the judicial institutions in order to cover up the bribery and corruption investigation," Vural said.