ANKARA - TDN Parliament Bureau
Ankara is readying for a long, hot summer as discussions over the timetable for the closure case against the ruling party dominate all political calculations in the capital.
The expectation is that the Constitutional Court will announce its verdict in the case against the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, at the end of July or the beginning of August, which may result in Turkey holding two simultaneous elections in the fall.
Because the AKP submitted its final defense 13 days prior to the deadline, Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya will submit his verbal statement in the case July 1. The AKP is expected to then submit its verbal defense two days later on July 3. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, backed by the main opposition leader Deniz Baykal of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, has revealed his hope that a verdict will be reached as early as possible, saying this will help the country avoid more political and economic instability,
The Turkish Daily News has learned that the members of the Constitutional Court are also keen on an early verdict, possibly to be released at the beginning of August. However, it will still not be possible to publish the elaborate decision in the court's official gazette before the end of August.
No date from Kılıç
President of the Constitutional Court Haşim Kılıç said yesterday that giving an exact date or even so much as �early, mid or late July� for the conclusion of the case is not possible. He also maintained that ongoing assessments of the case by the public will not influence the top court's decision.
�The Supreme Court of Appeals will present a verbal explanation, while the defendant party will present a verbal defense. Later on, we will make an assessment with the whole board after the rapporteur exercises the necessary studies. That's why it is not possible today to give a specific date,� he added.
According to the official procedure, after the submission of the verbal defense, the rapporteur of the Constitutional Court will produce a report on the substance of the case. Once the top court receives this report, it will decide on the timeframe to discuss and decide on the closure case. Both the chief prosecutor and the AKP will be able to submit additional evidence and argumentation in the interim.
Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek and his team of jurist deputies, who prepared the AKP defense submitted Monday, have already commenced preparations on the verbal defense. Çiçek is expected to make the verbal defense himself, together with deputy parliamentary group leaders Sadullah Ergin and Bekir Bozdağ.
Closure may bring simultaneous elections
According to assessments by AKP elite, if the court decides to cut Treasury aid to the party, stopping short of closure, there will not be major shifts in the current political landscape. In this case, Erdoğan is expected to call for a broad consensus on extensive constitutional changes and concentrate on European Union reforms, while intensifying his party's focus on the local elections to take place March 2009.
However if the court rules in favor of the closure of the AKP and bans Erdoğan from politics for five years, his political immunity will be lifted immediately after the release of the decision and the current government will fall, meaning a new political party will have to rise from the ashes of the AKP.
The most crucial challenge for the party will be to come up with the most appropriate formula to get Erdoğan re-elected as an independent deputy in the next general election, a scenario that remains possible under the current legal framework. This could enable Erdoğan to be part of Parliament and form a government as prime minister. In this case, the former government will fall and a transitional government will push the country to elections.
Because the Constitution requires any elections held less than one year prior to general elections to be held along with them, the local elections due March 2009 will have to be combined with the general elections. At least three months of preparations are required for the Supreme Election Board to get ready for simultaneous elections. Thus, it is widely expected in political circles that a closure scenario would lead Turkey to an election at the beginning of November at the latest.