Turkish party suspends plans to amend constitution

Other News Materials 20 May 2008 12:38 (UTC +04:00)

A package of amendments was one of the options under consideration in the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) after the court accepted a case by the Court of Appeals chief prosecutor, who seeks the closure of the party, reported World Bulletin.

The case is part of a continuing battle between political and economic reformers and hardline secularists who say the AK Party violates the secular principles of the Turkish Republic.

Babacan, speaking on the sidelines of a World Economic Forum meeting in Egypt, said the AK Party would implement whatever verdict the Constitutional Court reaches, out of respect for the judiciary and the principle of separate powers.

He added: "We were thinking about making some constitutional amendments, like a medium-sized package so to speak, to introduce new aspects of freedoms ... But we have actually paused that work.

"Turkey will need a comprehensive constitutional reform at one point anyway and while this court case continues right now, my prime minister (Tayyip Erdogan) is reluctant to do things or take steps which would possibly bring new aspects of tension."

Babacan added: "But that is as of today and we will have to watch the process. It is going to be important weeks, months ahead of us."

Senior AK Party members have told Reuters that the party has begun to expect the court to close the party down in the next few months and ban Erdogan from politics, and is now searching for a way to hold onto power.

The prosecutor wants 71 AK Party members banned, including President Abdullah Gul.

Babacan declined to predict what the court would decide but he took heart from what he said was an open debate in Turkey.

"We are confident that wisdom and rationality will win. That is what we expect," he added.

He said the AK Party's opponents were trying to impose their own mistaken idea of Kemalism -- the secular ideology introduced by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.

"I would distance myself when someone says 'Kemalism said this or that.' I would ask what exactly he means by Kemalism and then we will be able to judge," he added..