News / Europe

Turkey Mulls Constitutional Reform in Light of Talks with Kurdish Rebels

Rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, in Turkey close to the border with Iraq, May 7, 2013.
Rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, in Turkey close to the border with Iraq, May 7, 2013.
Dorian Jones
With fighters from the Kurdish rebel group the PKK withdrawing from Turkey to Iraq, eyes are now on a new constitution currently being written by Turkey's parliament, which could meet Kurdish political demands. But those parliamentary efforts remain deadlocked, with the Turkish president warning this week that the process has reached a dead end.

The start of the withdrawal of PKK fighters is the first step in efforts to end the nearly three-decade-long conflict between the Kurdish rebel group and the Turkish state.

Altan Tan, a parliamentary deputy for the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, says now is the time for reforms for the country’s Kurdish minority.

"Turkey should solve the Kurdish problem and make a new constitution and a new democratic rule," said Tan "This is the 'new position' of the PKK and the Kurdish movement."

Tan is a member of an inter-party parliamentary reconciliation commission tasked with writing a new constitution to replace the 1982 military constitution currently in force. Kurdish demands include mother-tongue education, greater power to Turkey's regions and constitutional recognition of the Kurdish identity.

But the drafting of a new constitution remains deadlocked over numerous issues, including key BDP demands. Turkish President Abdullah Gul said this week he feared the process has reached a dead end.

Riza Turmen, a member of the main opposition Republican People’s Party who also sits on the parliamentary constitution reconciliation commission, remains hopeful.

"The area of disagreement gets narrower," said Turmen. "There are obstacles in the process itself; we have to reconcile all these views and we should have enough time to negotiate. And there is the proposal by the ruling party on the presidential system: this constitutes a major obstacle [to] an agreement."
 
All the main opposition parties accuse Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of wanting to create a presidential system with few checks or balances, ahead of his expected bid for the presidency next year. This week, a senior member of the ruling AK party gave the parliamentary constitution reconciliation commission a July 1 deadline for completing its work.

Observers expect the government will put forward its own draft constitution.  Cengiz Aktar, a political scientist at Istanbul’s Bahcesehir University, says reforms have to be introduced to keep the peace process on track.

"No one expects a full-fledged, brand new constitution any more from this commission. Turkey still needs a temporary constitution that would contain key elements to make sure the peace process will proceed," said Aktar.
 
The government will need the support of one other party to ensure constitutional reform is approved in parliament and then in a national referendum. Tan of the pro-Kurdish BDP says a deal could be reached with the Turkish prime minister if he modifies his presidential plans.

"If he [the prime minister] gives all the rights to the Kurds, maybe [we] will discuss the presidential system, not according [to] his idea, [but] according to the United States system with the checks and balances,"said Tan.

So far, Prime Minister Erdogan has rejected the U.S. model, claiming it’s too restrictive. Soli Ozel, a political scientist at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University, warns any constitution that excludes the main opposition party risks dividing the country and casting a shadow over the document's legitimacy.

"There will be a severe problem of legitimacy for that constitution. It will have the numbers [to pass in parliament] but it will not have the support of [a] significant part of the Turkish population, which will then be dead [set] against it. And legitimacy is not a very concrete thing: you cannot touch it, you just feel it when it breaks down. A constitution that passes solely with AKP and BDP votes is not going to be on very solid ground," said Ozel.
 
The government's July 1 deadine for the parliamentary constitution reconciliation commission to complete its work means it has less than three months to reach an agreement.  Observers warn that with hopes for an end to the nearly three-decade-long conflict hanging in the balance, pressure to reach a consensus on a new constitution can only grow.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid