Turkey must grab this occasion
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s meeting with the opposition leaders at his presidential palace, following the coup attempt on July 15, is a positive development. It is not a good development though, that the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was not invited.
The reason for this calculated omission is clearly the ongoing campaign of terrorism by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and sensitivities resulting from this. It has to be recalled however that the HDP also took a firm position against the plot to overthrow the government, and deserves to have this acknowledged.
Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-chair of the party, has called on both the government and the PKK to reassess their position in the light of this failed coup attempt, which, he says, has changed the political calculus in Turkey.
If Turkey is to fully capitalize on the sense of unity we see after the coup attempt, the government can’t afford to turn a deaf ear to its citizens of Kurdish origin, who also came out in large numbers and helped foil the attempted military take-over.
This brings us to the urgent need for a democratic Constitution for Turkey. The current Constitution, with its democratic restrictions and shortcomings, was drawn up after the successful coup on Sept. 12, 1980.
Since the latest coup attempt was prevented with a sacrifice from the people, this is an occasion for a truly civilian Constitution to be drawn up which guarantees all the rights and liberties demanded by advanced societies.
Efforts by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to introduce a presidential system to replace our parliamentary system have resulted in angry debates centered on Erdoğan’s desire to introduce a system where all the power is vested in the executive.
Given the prevailing spirit of reconciliation, the opposition can consider the idea of a presidential system for Turkey without rejecting it out of hand; but with an essential caveat. Namely that the debate should center on the democratic curbs to be placed on the powers granted the president.
In other words the separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary should be clearly spelled out and guaranteed by the new Constitution. Erdoğan’s past remarks show that this is not what he wants.
But, as Demirtaş said, the times have changed fundamentally with this failed coup attempt, and everyone needs to revise their previous positions.
Following Erdoğan’s meeting with opposition leaders Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said an understanding had emerged regarding the need to work together on a new Constitution. Neither Kılıçdaroğlu, nor Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), have said anything to contradict this. That being the case it is time to work hard and breathe life into this.
The fact that a civil war of sorts was more likely to emerge from this coup attempt, rather than an authoritarian military regime, should help concentrate minds, especially when that threat still exists because society is dangerously polarized.
The roundup of thousands of people – including colleagues of ours – who are suspected of being supporters of Fethullah Gülen, the alleged mastermind of this failed coup attempt, is worrying in this regar