Why Turkey needs the constitutional commission
The interparty parliamentary panel tasked with drafting a new constitution, also known as the “constitutional commission,” lasted only three sessions. “This commission has ended.” İsmail Kahraman, the speaker of the parliament allegedly said in that ill-fated last meeting. These reports have not been refuted, so I assume they reflect reality. I find this a grave mistake, first of all, on the part of the speaker himself. It was his task to keep the flame flickering, but it appears as though he is having difficulty in understanding the immensity of the task he was entrusted with. A pity. Prime Minister Davutoğlu, realizing the importance of the commission, is struggling to salvage the ship sunk by the incompetence of its captain.
The constitutional commission is the only good thing that Turkey has going at the moment. It is a clear measure of the progress the country has made in the last 10 to 15 years. In the 1990s, when the truce between the government and the Kurdish insurgency went wrong, Turkey kicked its Kurdish MPs out of the parliament and jailed them.
Today, Kurdish MPs are part of an inter-parliamentary panel to draft the new constitution. And the constitutional commission is directly about the social cohesion of Turkey, mind you. It was representative of the country and the beginning of a healthy process. And I believe, given the dire situation Turkey is facing, the process is much more important than the destination. People should be proud of this, and should have valued it. Yet due to the mismanagement by the speaker of the parliament, it ended. I hope the process will be salvaged, and commend the efforts of PM Davutoğlu to that end.
Why do even good politicians act poorly and misjudge opportunities, especially in our neighborhood? Why are they incapable of supporting what they all know to be a positive agenda? Why have they failed to design a reform process? I guess it is the social constraints that they face. These social constraints are shaped by the degree of social cohesion in their respective countries. Social cohesion is essential to ensure confidence and patience that reform processes need. Without the ties generated by social cohesion, citizens cannot bear the brunt of short-term losses reform requires. In Turkey, the lack of social cohesion could be due to income inequality, ethnic and sectarian tension and political divisions. According to the Social Cohesion Index compiled by the OECD in 2011, Turkey ranks 120th among 155 countries. Syria ranks 125th.
Looking for a strong structural deficiency that can derail the reform process in any country? Look for a lack of social cohesion. Development, in any country, is about mechanisms to manage social conflict and attain social cohesion. The constitutional commission in Turkey’s Parliament is our foremost mechanism to do that. It should not be taken lightly.