Constitution Commission to work for two more months

Constitution Commission to work for two more months

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Constitution Commission to work for two more months

DHA Photo

A rejuvenated hope for the writing of a new Constitution has emerged, with Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission declaring July 1 as the new deadline for the conclusion of their endeavors to make a new Constitution.

The announcement of the date came amid ongoing controversy over the apparently diminishing chances of forming a new Constitution. President Abdullah Gül expressed pessimism on the chances of reaching a consensus in the drafting of a Constitution from scratch on May 6, during his visit to Portugal. The new July 1 date will provide the Commission with two more months to come to an agreement on the amending articles, although a total redrafting of the charter still appears unlikely.

Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek announced late on May 7, that the Commission would pursue an accord on key articles regarding fundamental rights. Advisers appointed by the parties in Parliament will handle the other articles, in particular those related to the executive, legislative and judicial powers, in order to lay the ground for discussion in the Commission.

According to the new timetable, Çiçek will visit party leaders to collect their opinions and form a new assessment at the end of June, according to Mehmet Ali Şahin, the deputy chair of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and a member of the Commission. Whether this assessment will be made public will remain the prerogative of the party leaders.

Another notable event during the Commission’s meeting chaired by Çiçek on May 7 was a skirmish as to whether there is a “parallel negotiation” on the Constitution taking place in İmralı with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, as argued by Faruk Bal, the deputy chair of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy and participant of a delegation visiting İmralı, where Öcalan is currently serving a life-sentence, Sırrı Süreyya Önder, opposed Bal strongly. “By chance I am at this table. I swear on my honor that we are not discussing the Constitution issue with Kandil [the mountains in northern Iraq where the PKK headquarters are based]. Those who say so should be ashamed. We are at the table for a democratic and libertarian Constitution and we are not having any other secretive Constitution meetings,” Önder said.

The AKP’s insistence on the presidential system also once again led to a heated debate, where the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies supported the withdrawal of the proposal in order to pave the way for the easier conduct of negotiations.

The alleged ties between the constitutional work and peace process were established when Murat Karayılan, a senior PKK leader and the head of Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), designated the withdrawal of armed PKK members as a step that must be complemented by necessary constitutional amendments, in order for the process to culminate in an absolute disarmament, in a statement on April 29.

The four parties in the Commission managed to reach a consensus on only 30 articles out of the total 125, over the course of 17 months of work. The end of April had been set as a deadline by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to finish the first draft.

BDP deputy Altan Tan however stated that despite failure to reach a consensus on the major articles, the new constitution can still happen.

“There is enough will and support to make it happen,” Tan said. “Even prophets did not have a hundred percent support from the people. There is not need to stall this.”