Okan Konuralp - Hürriyet / Ankara, Aug 5 () - Talks between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) on a possible grand coalition have ended, with the parties far apart on five key issues, particularly Syria and Turkey’s foreign policy.
The pair, however, was also divided on education, social policies, presidential powers and the Kurdish question.
The delegations from the AKP and the CHP met for the last time on Aug. 3 in Ankara before submitting reports to their leaders, Ahmet Davutoğlu and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, respectively, outlining issues on which the two parties’ policies overlap and differ.
The leaders will then decide whether to launch genuine negotiations aimed at forming a grand coalition, as the total number of their seats exceed the two-third majority required to amend the constitution.
“We did our job” said CHP deputy leader and spokesperson Haluk Koç. “Afterwards, it’s up to Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu and his ruling party to make a decision, as he was given the mandate to form a government” Koç added. “In this frame, we will make our assessment if there is a demand [from the AKP] for a meeting with the CHP.”
Koç said the report they would submit to Kılıçdaroğlu would be neither positive nor negative but would instead contain findings on the main political issues. “There are serious, fundamental differences on some issues but there are also issues we have similar views on. These will be reported to the leaders.”
Culture Minister Ömer Çelik had similar comments. Çelik, who led the AKP delegation, said the exploratory talks had been completed by going through all issues. “In the end, the decision will be given by our chairman and the necessary bodies of our party. If they come to the conclusion that these preliminary talks have shown there is a space for mutual compromise, then negotiations will begin. Otherwise, the process will end at this point.”
Five problematic issues
According to the information gathered from sources familiar with the talks, there are five issues on which the two parties diverge.
Foreign policy: The CHP wants a complete overhaul of foreign policy, particularly the Syrian stance of the government, and wants to establish a peace-based foreign policy understanding. This requires reconciliation with neighboring Israel and Egypt as well as abandoning its insistence on ousting Bashar al-Assad’s government. The AKP, however, as the architect of what it call “conscience-based diplomacy” based on humane values, is resisting any change in foreign policy.
Education policies: The CHP wants radical changes to the educational system, including the closing of the Supreme Education Board (YÖK). The party is also pushing for 13 years of compulsory education on the basis of the 1+8+4 system instead of the current 4+4+4, which allows children to leave school earlier. Rewriting the curriculum of vocational religious schools, the imam-hatip schools, is also on the CHP’s to-do list. The AKP insists on its education policies and is unlikely to hand over the Education Ministry to the social democrats.
Kurdish question: The CHP has long advocated ending the Kurdish question through commissions to be formed under the roof of parliament. Dismissing the methods the AKP has used so far for the resolution of the problem, the CHP also suggested reducing the 10 percent threshold.
Presidential powers: Although the two parties agreed on the need for a new constitution, they differed on how fundamental rights and freedoms, the judiciary and presidential powers would be formulated in it. The CHP suggested amendments to reinforce the current parliamentary system, whereas the AKP wants to adopt a presidential system. The CHP also demanded the abrogation of controversial laws that prohibit the right to demonstrate and freedom of expression.
Social policies: The CHP insisted on the fulfillment of some its election promises, such as giving two extra salaries to retired workers and increasing the minimum wage.