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

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Video Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid