The government's strategy for the constitution has changed
A significant strategy change has been adopted in the issue of Turkey’s new constitution. Previously, the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) had accelerated constitution works and was planning to hold a referendum in September. A new constitution was going to be written in April and May; it would be submitted to parliament in June or July, and a public debate would simultaneously be opened.
For the new constitution, an accelerated calendar had been envisaged. But this strategy has now changed. It has now been decided not to rush, and instead to spread the process out over time.
This decision was taken by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. “The new constitution will be left to mature,” they said. It is the joint will of the president and the prime minister to allow the new constitution to mature.
There has not been even a slight deviation from the government’s determination on the new constitution and the presidential system. Both the President’s Office and the AK Parti are absolutely certain and determined on the subject of the new constitution.
With the new constitution, the AK Parti is claiming that it aims to replace the Sept. 12, 1980 coup constitution with a civilian constitution.
It also knows that the new constitution has to be adopted by wide segments of society. The AK Parti is aiming to write the new constitution together with the nation. For this, it wants each section of the charter to be thoroughly debated by legal experts, intellectuals, artists, NGOs and the public. To that end, Prime Minister Davutoğlu will get together with academics, intellectuals, artists and NGOs. He has already met five different legal groups with various different views.
When the aim was jointly determined as a civilian constitution accepted by wide segments of society, then the question of “why are we rushing?” emerged.
A couple of aspects played an important role in this decision. In his recent trip to Africa, President Erdoğan told journalists that after seeing that a new constitution could not be agreed upon with a consensus in parliament, the AK Parti could submit its own constitution proposal. I asked, “Does the government agree with this?” The president answered, “That’s what I’m saying. This is correct.”
The government had accelerated constitution works. But Erdoğan did not quite agree with adopting a constitution proposal to be submitted to parliament without the nation being convinced. Erdoğan, who has overcome all difficulties with public support, wanted the constitution to be made together with the nation so that a charter approved by the nation would be produced.
It is important to write a constitution that has the support of the people, but there is math involved. First, because the AK Party’s number of deputies alone is not adequate, the support of at least 14 more deputies in parliament is needed. Second, if a referendum is held for the constitution, 50 percent plus 1 of the votes should be affirmative.
For this reason, both the parliament and the referendum processes should be managed carefully. After the draft of the constitution is publicized, a strategy to increase public support should be adopted. In other words, “the light at the end of the tunnel should be seen.” It has been decided that, after all these assessments are done, the constitution should be left to mature. This is like leaving the tea to steep.
The writing of the new constitution has not yet started. The principles to shed light on the question of what kind of constitution we will have are not yet clear. There are issues such as the preamble of the constitution, the unalterable articles, and whether the higher judiciary will represent the national will. There are also critical issues such as the representation of religion and ethnicity, how “checks and balances” system would function, the authority of the president to issue decrees, and mutual terminations.
It will be in the maturation process that fine tuning of the spirit of the constitution will be carried out.