The significance of the CHP’s constitutional draft

The significance of the CHP’s constitutional draft

The question last week in this column was whether the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) was doing anything else except for saying “no” to the presidential system. I also asked, “Is the CHP saying anything to us to correct the faulty separation of powers system in the current constitution?” 

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu kindly called me, saying, “Of course we do. We are conducting a comprehensive preparation.” Then, CHP Deputy Chair Bülent Tezcan, who is coordinating the preparations for the new constitution, explained the preparations together with a fact sheet. According to Tezcan, the CHP regards the search for a new constitution not only as a priority for Turkey but as an important issue. 

It is important for two reasons, Tezcan said, adding: “The first reason is that the ruling Justice and Development Party [AK Party] has started a debate on the democratic regime over the constitution; instead of improving our half, deficient, inadequate democracy, it has [made] an effort to carry it into a type of dictatorship, a regime with a boss under the name of presidential regime. For this reason, they are pushing the constitutional debate to the top of the agenda. The second reason is that it is a reality that constitutional arrangements are needed for a democracy based on separation of powers, where checks and balances mechanisms work, where the independence of the judiciary is provided.” 

I have been constantly reminding in this column that before discussing whether the administrative method in the new constitution be presidential or parliamentarian system, we need to discuss separation of powers in Turkey and that this is the main constitutional component that gives the democratic characteristic to the regime. 

In the past, former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu continuously made this emphasis. He was saying that the order of the separation of powers should be first fully incorporated in the new constitution, and then the presidential system could be built on top it.    

Based on these statements of the AK Party, I was asking whether the CHP was happy with the separation of powers and the checks and balances mechanisms in the current constitution. 

In the fact sheet Tezcan sent, he focuses exactly on this aspect: “We will handle the entire constitution and redraft it but we will not touch the first four articles. A constitution will be written where the checks and balances mechanisms would be institutionalized, based on separation of powers. There will be a powerful parliament enabling effective legislation and auditing activities. The president’s powers will be restricted according to a pure parliamentarian system. A balance in terms of power and responsibility will be formed.
Constitutional institutions will be included to prevent power violations. The parliamentary system will be the basis of the governing system. The judiciary will be formed in the true sense of impartiality and independence, holding an effective place in the checks and balances mechanism.”

As you know, the AK Party is also preparing a constitution and if the things said during the Davutoğlu era are still valid, the draft by this party will be publicized in the summer and debated. It will be submitted to parliament in the fall. 

The CHP has not decided whether or not it will submit its draft to parliament, but if they finalize their draft and publicize it then this summer we may have an interesting and significant democratic debate environment: The two constitutional drafts of two parties may be discussed simultaneously. 

Of course with one condition: If the AK Party, instead of an entire constitution change, only suggests an arrangement for a “president affiliated with a political party” and submits it to the parliament in a short time, then we would not be able to have this constitutional debate. Instead, we would start guessing whether Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputies would vote yes to this constitutional amendment, fearing an early election. Then we will start talking about an election in the fall or referendum options. 

But even in the case that the ruling AK Party proposes “a president affiliated with a party” system, it would be significant that the CHP announces and publicizes this constitution preparation. From there on, it would not be possible to ask the CHP, “Well, what do you propose then?”