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ANKARA WHISPERS > New constitution formula takes shape

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Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek has many times stressed the importance of civil contribution to the new charter. AA photo

Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek has many times stressed the importance of civil contribution to the new charter. AA photo

Göksel Bozkurt Göksel Bozkurt goksel.bozkurt@hurriyet.com.tr

Parliament’s Constitutional Reconciliation Commission started writing the new constitution beginning with the section on “fundamental rights and freedoms.” The sub-commission is going to incorporate all the suggestions into a single text and present it before the commission for further deliberations on Wednesday. There are shared requests, as well as widely differing suggestions.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP,) for instance, have banded together to provide constitutional protection for people of the “third sex,” under a clause entitled “sexual orientation.” While the CHP requests “fair trial” along with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP,) the BDP and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have also come together to issue similar demands in “human rights and the prevention of ill-treatment.” The AKP and the BDP have also presented joint proposals on “the principle of equality and the prevention of discrimination.” There are also controversial proposals such as “education in mother tongue and conscientious objection to military service,” presented by the BDP, but rejected entirely by the AKP and the MHP. The CHP does seem warm to the idea of a down-to-earth entry on “conscientious objection,” though it opposes “education in mother tongue.”

The AKP is inclined to liberalize headscarves in institutions of higher education by insisting on the clause that “no one can be deprived of their right to education due to religious symbols” under a heading on the right to education. The CHP is not expected to raise any objections. If the AKP brings the regulations on wearing headscarves in the public domain into question, however, then it could run into problems with the CHP. In that case, the AKP could strike a bargain with the MHP and the BDP to liberalize all “religious symbols” in all public domains, except for judges, police and teachers. The CHP seems to be opposed to amending the current regulations governing headscarves in the public domain however, and its stance on this issue could lead to this matter being deferred for deliberations at a later date. The AKP leans toward a “non-patronizing” definition of secularism and wants an arrangement that will exclude the official ideology from the new constitution. The AKP would also like to see the introduction of a definition on “constitutional citizenship” in the new constitution.

The AKP could also bring forth suggestions on a presidential or a semi-presidential system in the new constitution, as they believe there are practical difficulties in implementing the principle of the separation of powers in a parliamentarian system.

The ruling party is also considering an arrangement that would allow 100 deputies to enter Parliament without actually having to overcome the national 10 percent election threshold, in addition to the 450 deputies who would still have to surpass the threshold to gain seats.

Among the goals of the new constitution is also to push the military back a step further, and the AKP is inclined to include an arrangement in the constitution to subordinate the General Staff to the Defense Ministry.

It seems the commission’s job is going to be even more difficult than what Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek had foreseen if the suggestions leaking into the backrooms come forth unadulterated.

Military coups’ basis to vanish?

Will the AKP amend the 35th article of the Turkish Armed Forces’ Internal Service Code, which is usually cited as the legal basis for Turkey’s past military coup d’etats? The article bestows upon the military the duty “to protect and maintain watch over the Republic.” The generals who delivered the Sept. 12, 1980

coup had cited this article as their justification. AKP’s Gaziantep deputy Şamil Tayyar
offered an amendment proposal at the start of April, but his call went unheeded. It is rumored that Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ has been telling his close circle in recent days that they want to bring about

this arrangement as a government proposal. And thus, they are waiting for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s approval to proceed.

Minority rights on the doorstep 

Parliament’s Reconciliation Commission is discussing the section on equality among the suggestions brought forth by all the four parties on “fundamental rights and freedoms.” All four parties are inclined to include minorities under this section. My observation, however, is that the commission is having a rough time over the definition of legally recognized entities. Despite this, the commission would like to alleviate the injustices against minorities by forging a definition for legally recognized entities that would grant minorities the license of representation. Good tidings may be just over the doorstep for minorities, as all the four parties lend their support to this effort.


May/14/2012

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