Constitution drive set to dominate 2012 agenda

Constitution drive set to dominate 2012 agenda

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Constitution drive set to dominate 2012 agenda

Members of the cross-party Constitution Conciliation Commission listen to Mümtaz Soysal (L), a constitutional law professor and a former foreign minister. The commisison will receive input from all segments of society until April as part of its task. AA photo

The drive to draw up a new constitution is expected to dominate Turkey’s domestic agenda in 2012, with the opposition parties wary that the ruling party could pursue amendments in line with the prime minister’s ambitions for a presidential system.

The cross-party Constitution Conciliation Commission, which will take input from all segments of society until April as part of its task in helping write the new charter, aims to pen a draft by the end of 2012.
“I hope that 2012 will be the year to replace the 1982 Constitution with the 2012 Constitution,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said over the weekend during a visit to the Central Anatolian province of Yozgat.

For the first time, the Turkish Parliament is working in mutual agreement on a constitution, with contributions from every circle in a free, pressure-free environment, he said.

“To me, this is a historic event,” he said. “As of April 30, the commission will start to deliberate the parameters of the new charter based on the reports and suggestions they receive.”

Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek said the new constitution was a must. “If we fail to change the Constitution, the people should react to politicians in the same way they reacted to the hike in lawmakers’ pensions,” he told the private Kanal 7 channel yesterday.

Signs of disagreement have already emerged between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), mainly due to the AKP’s insistence that provisions that were adopted in the 2010 referendum and have since profoundly reshaped the judiciary remain untouched.

The controversy over President Abdullah Gül’s term will also be a major topic of debate, with the opposition insisting that he should serve five years and threatening to seek the abolition of any law that would set his tenure to seven.

Lengthy pre-trial detentions are likely to remain in the headlines as wide-ranging cases into alleged anti-government plots and the purported urban network of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) drag on.

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin has said the government is working on reforms that would speed up trials and, by implication, shorten detention periods. The government is also under pressure to deliver promises for a “democracy package” to address the mounting criticism of the judiciary and curbs on free speech.

Another topic likely to occupy the agenda is the continued incarceration of eight elected deputies.
Both the AKP and the CHP are braced for party conventions in the autumn that could significantly reshape the parties. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is widely believed to be eyeing the presidency, is expected to review the party structure with a view to the future as many AKP heavyweights are currently serving their third and, according to party bylaws, last terms as parliamentary deputies.

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, for his part, is faced with intra-party opposition that has been emboldened by the party’s continued failure to move up in public opinion polls.