News / Europe

    Turkey Undertakes Big Push to Replace Military Constitution

    Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and then-deputy Cemil Cicek listen as Interior Minister Besir Atalay [not pictured] addresses members of parliament during a debate at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, Turkey, November 2009. (file photo)
    Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and then-deputy Cemil Cicek listen as Interior Minister Besir Atalay [not pictured] addresses members of parliament during a debate at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, Turkey, November 2009. (file photo)
    Dorian Jones

    The speaker of the Turkish parliament held meetings on Monday with constitutional experts on the writing of a new constitution. There is broad political agreement on the need for replacing the 1982 constitution written by Turkey's then-military rulers. A new constitution is seen as especially crucial to addressing the demands of the country's Kurdish minority. Major problems lie ahead, however, for the government in its constitutional reform efforts.

    With handshakes and smiles, Turkish parliament speaker Cemil Cicek greeted leading constitutional experts. Cicek said a new constitution is key to modernizing the country and achieving its goal of European Union membership. The gathering is the first step in the government's bid to replace the current constitution, which is synonymous with oppression and lack of freedoms. There is wide agreement that it needs to be replaced. Building on that consensus, parliamentary deputy and senior member of the ruling AK party Volkan Bozkir said the whole process must be inclusive.

    "The main pillar of the whole system is the constitution. The constitution we have now is the product of a military coup d'etat in 1980. The mentality of the constitution is not a liberal one," said Bozkir. "The best thing to do is to have new constitution. But everybody must feel comfortable with the new constitution, and to do that, the sensitivities of everybody should be taken into consideration. And of course it should be decided with a public referendum.

    The government has committed itself to consult with all the parliamentary parties. While there is acknowledgement on the need for reform, though, deep divisions remain over the nature of it. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is widely considered to want to change Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential system, a proposal strongly opposed by all the opposition parties. But with Erdogan having secured 50 percent of the vote in last June's election, political columnist Asli Aydintasbas warns government talk of consensus may just be talk.

    "He does not feel the need to compromise, and basically this whole talk of consensus was not really about compromise," said Aydintasbas.  "It was like, 'let's sit around the table and come around to whatever the 50 percent want.' It's a problem. I don't think with the boycott and the kind of mood and rhetoric people are using, we are going to have a big consensus around the new constitution. I don't see it happening."

    The boycott that Aydintasbas is referring to is by the country's main pro-Kurdish party, the BDP. Its deputies are refusing to take their parliamentary oaths because six of their colleagues are languishing in jail, despite having parliamentary immunity. The constitutional reform process is already overshadowed by increased fighting between the state and the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK. Arrests of BDP members also continue, with 55 over in recent days under anti-terror laws. Political scientist Soli Ozel warns the whole constitutional  process is under threat.

    "The central problem is going to be how to redefine citizenship. If it leaves the Kurdish nationalists out, then it will be a lame constitution," said Ozel. "But the government obviously [is] banking on [the] fact that it feels qualified to speak on behalf of the Kurds, as well, because it gets in the country in general almost half of the Kurdish vote."

    The leadership of the pro-Kurdish BDP has said it will end its boycott, however, if the government gives a commitment to end cross-border operations into northern Iraq against PKK bases. Also, they want an end to the isolation of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. It remains unclear whether the government will meet those demands. But Parliamentary Deputy Bozkir believes the constitutional process will have wide parliamentary political participation.   

    "They might have some tough talks in the parliament, that is understandable. But when it comes to issues which is in the interest of the country, I am really very hopeful we will have just to put the opposition parties into the process and have their views and have the constitution as a common project," said Bozkir.

    A new constitution is widely touted as key to turning Turkey into a modern democracy and paving the way to resolving the deep divisions that continue to plague its society. Already those divisions are threatening to overwhelm the government's efforts, though, to finally sever the country's last tie with its military past.

    You May Like

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora