It was May 2016 when former CHP MP and former judge of the European Court of Human Rights, Rıza Türmen wrote an article arguing for the need of a united front working to bring peace to the country and strengthen its democracy. The platform “Union for Democracy” was founded in June following his call, and organized its first big public gathering in late October under the pressure of rising expectancies in the post-coup atmosphere. Some CHP and HDP MPs, representatives from trade unions, NGOs, human rights groups, representatives from 103 organisations, as well as lawyers, academicians, and artists were among the initiators of the platform.
Binnaz Toprak from the platform, another former CHP MP and a political science professor has stated last week that the Union is preparing for a new campaign with the motto “Do not extend!” (Uzatma!), asking for the lifting of the state of emergency and through this putting an end to the current rule by decrees. Toprak said that the state of emergency does not anymore serve to overcome the threats the coup attempt has created.
Türmen has formulated the aim of the platform as forming a pluralist democratic front without pushing for an ideological consensus. He stated that the two driving motives of the Union are, first, to prevent a one-man-rule, and second, to seek a peaceful and democratic solution to the Kurdish issue. Hence, the Union is preparing for a campaign against the state of emergency, which can easily be turned to a campaign for voting "no" once a referendum on the constitution is scheduled.
The secret talks between the ruling AKP and the ultra-nationalist MHP have resulted in a draft of constitutional amendments, which would mean a regime change towards a system of executive presidency with the separation of powers further eroded, leaving the president with effective control over all three branches of government . The next steps in the schedule are a parliamentary vote, and a referendum in case the draft passes the parliament.
In a possible referendum, the outcome seems less than certain. According to polls, support for an executive presidency has apparently only risen from 20% in 2015 to roughly over 40 per cent in of 2016. Such a vote would come after a year of extreme instability in Turkey. It is therefore not surprising that polls only register a 50% approval rate for the change of the constitution, when coupled with the notion that “an executive presidency will bring more stability.”
The Union for Democracy is aiming to formulate a minimum for normalization, and even further democratization by its call for the return to the peace process, emphasis on the separation of powers and the rule of law, hoping that they can unify people from across the political spectrum. Time will show whether the Union will find popular resonance under the conditions of economic crisis, tensions in regional politics and the violence that has engulfed the country.