Troubled by own supporters, "no" camp parties have called on these members to either resign or have asked for them to be referred to the disciplinary board.
More and more members of the political parties that are carrying out no campaigns against the government-sponsored reforms that will be presented to a referendum on Sept. 12 are moving away from their parties' stance and revealing their wish to go ahead with a yes vote, prompting their parties to take disciplinary action against them.
More members of the Republican People's Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the Democratic Left Party (DSP) and the Democrat Party (DP), parties which say no to the reform package, are announcing their support for the reforms and say they will vote yes.
Troubled by this, these parties have called on these members to either resign or have asked for them to be referred to the disciplinary board.
The CHP is the first party that launched a disciplinary process for a dissenting member. The party referred Serif Memioglu, the mayor of Yedisu in Bingol province, to the party's disciplinary board because Memioglu voiced support for the reforms. The CHP called on another dissenting member, Ankara deputy Esref Erdem, to resign. When Erdem ignored calls to resign from the CHP administration, he was also referred to the party's disciplinary board.
Huseyin Alpay, the DSP Tokat provincial chairman, announced his support for the reform package along with his resignation from the DSP. Despite his efforts, DSP leader Masum Turker failed to convince him to withdraw his support for the package. Members of the DSP Tokat branch also decided to resign from the party. Tokat was one of the provinces where the DSP received the highest percentage of votes in the last elections.
The problem with the MHP is that many idealist figures, who are like leaders of the MHP's grass roots, have announced their support for the reforms mainly because the reforms will pave the way for the trial of the perpetrators of the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup. Idealists were among the groups that were subjected to the tyranny of the junta regime the most.
A statement by MHP deputy leader Recai Yıldırım, who accused Idealists who support the reforms of flattering Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stating that they are acting like Erdoğan's dogs, received widespread reactions from Idealist leaders. One of the founders of the MHP, lawyer Faruk Evirgen, noted that he will vote yes for the reforms, accusing the MHP of altering the values of the party.
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Cem Toker, whose party decided to say no to the reforms, mentioned that he finds the referral of dissenting party members to the parties' disciplinary boards as a sign of disrespect to free will.
As the LDP, we decided to vote 'no' for the reforms; however, we have friends who will say 'yes' to the reforms. It is not possible for us to condemn these party members, refer them to a disciplinary board or expel them from the party. Having a variety of ideas is the basic principle of democracy, Toker said.
While noting that party administrations cannot remain silent on an important issue like the reforms, Toker said, however, that the decisions made by party administrations should not be imposed on party members.
He accused the parties that impose sanctions on their dissenting members of failing to act with common sense.
The referendum is a completely different issue than political leanings. It is not an issue of liberalism, ultra-nationalism or nationalism. It is an issue above this, and it is more about standing up for democracy and being democratic. One can be a liberal democrat, social democrat or conservative democrat, but the main identity is of being a democrat. There could be naysayers and yes-sayers for reforms in every party. If someone thinks differently from the party administration, this does not mean that that member acts against the basic opinion of that party. This is a situation that is related to the principles of democracy, not the principles of political parties. Nothing can be as natural as having various views in a party, explained Toker.
DSP leader Turker is at odds with Toker and thinks a party member going against his or her party that decided to say no to the reforms and making this public will necessitate disciplinary action against him/her.
If a party member thinks differently, s/he does not have to share his/her view with the public. He/she may not take part in the no campaign if s/he does not want to do so. But if s/he uses it in a different way [for propaganda], then we ask for s/he to be held accountable because s/he influences our campaign, Türker said.
Saying that an election and a referendum are the same thing, Turker said the aim of a party is to demonstrate a unified attitude that will gain support from the public.
The referendum is a significant issue that will determine the political structure of Turkey due to the reforms. That's why party discipline is necessary -- because a party is focused on the same goal. A party member may think in a different way, but s/he does not have to share this with the public, Turker said.