ANKARA: The Turkish government said Wednesday it will present a bill to parliament aimed at reviving stalled peace talks with Kurdish rebels, in an apparent bid to win presidential election votes from Turkey’s biggest minority.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is widely expected to be unveiled on July 1 as the ruling party’s candidate for the August polls and support from the Kurdish minority could ease his path to a near certain victory.
Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said in comments broadcast by Turkish television that work on the reform bill had been finalised and presented for ministers to sign.
“I gave a presentation at the last cabinet meeting. The decision was made and we will present the draft to the parliament within one or two days,” he said.
Interior Minister Efkan Ala also confirmed Wednesday that the reform bill would be presented to parliament “today or tomorrow”.
“The legislation shows the (government’s) will to solve this (Kurdish) problem,” Ala told reporters. “We are doing what’s necessary to advance the process,” he said.
Ministers would not comment on the content of the reform bill but a government official said that the package would put the peace process “under legal protection”.
“The proposed legislation is aimed at bringing a legal framework to the (peace) process,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“I think it will be a turning point”.
Local media reported that the seven-article package of reforms would grant “legal guarantees” to key actors — including politicians, bureaucrats and military — involved in the peace process with Kurdish rebels.
The bill will be voted on by June 28 when parliament is scheduled to go into summer recess, it added. Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) party has a comfortable majority in the 550-seat parliament.
European Union member states’ ambassadors to Ankara were also “informed of the government-led package of new reforms,” during a luncheon hosted by Erdogan on Tuesday, diplomats said.
Analysts say Erdogan is counting on support from the Kurdish minority — who make up one fifth of the country’s population — to get elected, possibly with an outright victory in the first round.
Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Programme at The Washington Institute, said that as the AKP and opposition parties have relatively similar core electorates, Kurdish votes will be decisive at the elections.
“Kurds will be the kingmakers of the August polls — effectively the Kurds will be the key determinant of Turkey’s next president,” he told AFP.
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) is expected to field its own candidate for the presidency.
But analysts believe the party could back Erdogan in any second round run-off against the two main opposition parties’ joint candidate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu.
Turkey’s “Kurdish question” has been a thorn in Ankara’s side since the modern republic was founded in 1923 with a constitution that failed to recognise its Kurdish population as a separate minority.
The Kurds, a distinct Sunni Muslim people, make up an estimated 20 percent of Turkey’s population or around 15 million people, but are also scattered across neighbouring Iraq, Iran and Syria.
Erdogan is Turkey’s first leader to engage in talks with Kurdish rebels and give the Kurds limited extra rights including allowing Kurdish-language education in private schools. But these reforms failed to grant Kurds any constitutional recognition.
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