The four-party Constitution Conciliation Commission is set to meet on Jan. 2, following Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek’s meetings with the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu
and the Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) Selahattin Demirtaş. Çiçek engaged in a tour of meetings with the leaders of the political parties in a bid to complete the Constitution-making process as the commission’s mandate ended on Dec. 31, 2012. The commission is likely to announce an agreement to extend the mandate for another three or four months.
However, hopes are fading for the new Constitution as polarization and tension between four political parties over a number of issues make compromise and consensus nearly impossible. Alongside how to formulate citizenship or the use of one’s mother tongue in education, the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) insistence on the adoption of a presidential system stands as one of the most important hurdles before the new Constitution.
There were three very important statements from senior AKP officials in recent days that give us clues on the potential roadmap of the government in the case of the commission’s collapse. The first statement came from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
last week when he signaled that they will not allow for another extension of the mandate for the commission if the writing process cannot be completed in the coming months. Recalling that the AKP drafted several documents in the past, Erdoğan said they will not think twice in introducing it to Parliament.
The second statement came from Numan Kurtulmuş, deputy leader of the AKP, who mentioned obtaining extra votes the AKP needs to take constitutional amendments to a referendum. “We, as the [AKP], will introduce the new charter that the people are demanding. We’ll take it to a referendum if we can find 330 votes,” he said, recalling that the party lacks at least four votes to do so. Convincing some independent deputies to join the AKP or transferring some like-minded parliamentarians from other parties seem to be potential paths for the ruling party. It is believed that there are at least 10 deputies the AKP can convince to join them.
The third statement came from deputy AKP leader Ömer Çelik, who compared Turkey’s constitution-making process to that of Egypt’s. Çelik recalled that the new leadership in Egypt could succeed in finalizing the process in just a few months, whereas Turkey is improving at a snail’s pace. This gives the impression that the government is very much influenced by Mohammed Morsi’s success.
As perfectly outlined by Güven Sak in his column on Dec. 29 in the Daily News, the constitution-making processes of Turkey and Egypt are completely different and hard to compare. For Sak, Morsi failed to provide reconciliation in his already divided country by insisting on a self-made document. It will be wiser for the Turkish government not to take Egypt as its new model for its democratic development.
Note: I have learned with a great sadness that a very good friend and colleague, Ümit Enginsoy, has passed away on the last day of 2012. A unique personality with top-quality journalism, Ümit will always be remembered in our hearts. Rest in peace, Ümit.