Constitution commission to come to end?
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Members of the Constitution Commission are seen after a meeting.
Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission held its first meeting and started working on Oct. 19, 2011. Formed by three members of the each four parties in Parliament – the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Republican People’s Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) – the commission handled 125 articles in 17 months. The parties have reached a full consensus on 30 articles, while the other 95 were set aside due to some disagreements. The most controversial sections include the Preamble, the “unchangeable” first four articles and the legislative, executive and judicial sections.
After 17 months of work, the commission will display its latest efforts in April. Last fall, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan indicated Dec. 31, 2012 as the final date of the commission. With Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek’s intervention, this period was prolonged to March 31, 2013, which corresponds to yesterday. The authorities of the AKP will negotiate the timing issue now. Çiçek had formerly implied that “the process could be extended to a longer period if there was a consensus possibility.” I observed some signs of this implication within the ruling party. Mustafa Elitaş from the AKP said they would submit their proposal to the Parliamentary Speaker’s Office if a hope of consensus was not probable. Also, Mustafa Şentop, a commission member from the AKP, implied that the hopes of reaching an agreement were gradually decreasing, arguing that a constitutional draft could not be written forever. “Even if it is extended to the end of April, it cannot be suspended to May on any account,” Şentop said.
Evidently, the AKP wants to wait until April 23 at most and take action for the Constitution after that. Also, April 23 is a symbolic date since it is the 93rd anniversary of Parliament’s inauguration. Regardless of whether the AKP waits until April 23 or not, the future of the new Constitution will be determined within this month. An important figure from the AKP said, “This is turning into a diversion tactic of the opposition. The efforts to prevent a civil Constitution are clearly seen. We have spent enough time on it, and we cannot let the opposition exploit it anymore. We will try [writing the draft] with those with whom we can manage it.”
So, will the AKP leave the table at the end of April? The same figure also answers this question: “Parliamentary Speaker Çiçek must make a decision in April after considering the picture. The one who has made calls to the parties is Çiçek. When it is seen that a four-party consensus could not be achieved, he has the duty to end the commission.” The AKP is now discussing ways of leaving the table. And in order not to let the opposition say “they left the table” about them, the party favors doing it through Çiçek, who founded the commission and managed to sustain it despite all the crises so far.
In this scenario no party, including the AKP, will leave the table, but the table will disperse de facto. And Çiçek will probably end the commission’s work by indicating that “the Constitution composed of 130 articles has been written for two years with the participation of four parties in the scope of a consensus culture; however, a text with full consensus was not reached, but still the individual recordings of the four parties’ views with regard to a new Constitution bear an importance.”
Various scenarios are being whispered about for the following period. But the most realistic one is a possible Constitution jointly made by the AKP and BDP, which could progress parallel to the peace process. After the four-party table disperses, the AKP will submit its own constitutional proposal to the Parliamentary Speaker’s Office. The CHP and the MHP will not support the AKP’s proposed draft; in fact they tend strictly to object to it. So, the highest possibility is an agreement between the AKP and the BDP. As the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, said he favored the presidential system and gave the green light to forming a joint Constitution, the BDP’s disagreement was not possible.
Arithmetically the AKP and the BDP together have enough seats to make changes as a result of a referendum. It seems that the new constitutional negotiations will be centered upon the AKP and the BDP at the end of April and in early May, as long as a great provocation is not made.
It is highly possible that the AKP will bring in the new proposal on its own in order not to create an image of bargaining with the BDP. Since the Constitution will be voted on by secret ballot, the ruling party could be content with the BDP’s outside/indirect support.
ÖCALAN’S DEMANDS ON LEGAL REFORMS
Last week I had a chance to interview Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş. Demirtaş spoke about some considerable specifications and demands that belong to Öcalan, as I inferred from his implications. I deduce from his statements that Öcalan demanded some legal changes that would be made simultaneously with the peace process by the end of summer. These demands include reducing the election threshold, abolishing the barriers to the freedom of press and expression and making some alterations in laws regarding fight against terrorism and political parties.
MHP MAY LOCK UP PARLIAMENT
Parliament began to experience very tense moments with the introduction of the peace process. Especially the speakers of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are harshly criticizing the ruling party. This harsh posture is the reason why the Justice and Development Party (AKP) does not support the formation of a commission in Parliament and is not making any legal regulation for now. The AKP first wants to see the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) recess and demonstrate this achievement to the opposition in order to drop its guard. The MHP, however, is preparing to lock Parliament up regarding the subjects related to the peace process.