Vetoing bill on environmental concerns may show limits of Erdoğan’s power

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s veto this week of a bill approved by parliament postponing improved environmental requirements for coal-fired power plants could be a turning point revealing the president needed to change his decision due to public opinion, veteran journalist Murat Yetkin said on Wednesday.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its far-right ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), helped parliament approve a bill last month postponing for two-and-a-half years a requirement for coal-fired power plants to introduce filters and gas purification systems to reduce carbon emissions. 

When Erdoğan vetoed the decision on Monday, the same AKP lawmakers who had passed the bill praised the president. 

Yetkin said the incident made people wonder whether some in the ruling party had started acting without asking Erdoğan and had submitted the bill without first consulting the president. The AKP's local election defeats in major cities this year and ongoing efforts to establish breakaway parties might have encouraged such groups, he said. 

But if Erdoğan had been aware of the bill, then the incident might be pointing to a different reality, Yetkin said, as that meant Erdoğan had changed his decision after negative public reaction, including from AKP supporters.

“If that is the reason, we should see it as a new turning point following the local election defeat of the Erdoğan-Bahçeli ruling bloc,” he said, referring to MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli. “Though President Erdoğan has all executive powers in his hands, he is at a state where he needs to alter his decisions by taking into account what the people say.”