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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid