Hit me baby one more time
“Turkey needs a new constitution,” the saying has gone since the day I was born. I am 34 years old now, and actually we have a new constitution; we have had new constitutions every 5-10 years anyway.
We are probably going to have to divide Turkey’s history into two: Before the Justice and Development Party (AKP), and after. Before the AKP, it was the liberals, seculars and leftists who insisted on a new constitution. Now, it is President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in particular who believes in the virtue of a new constitution.
The “new constitution” have been the magical words, because the 1982 constitution was designed and brought to referendum during a coup d’état, so the 92 percent “yes” vote for the 1982 constitution had major flows (well, a lesson to be derived here is it is probably not a good idea to take a new constitution to a referendum during extraordinary periods. This might hurt the legitimacy of the new constitution).
People voted for the constitution, but apparently nobody liked what was written on it. Half of it has actually been amended over time. The first amendment came in 1987, when a ban on several politicians was lifted.
More amendments came in 2001 and 2004. Times were different then; Turkey was a proud candidate to the EU and eager to make any changes needed to reach the Copenhagen Criteria. “Democracy” was the key word then; claiming any reform or change was needed for democracy was enough.
Then came the 2010 referendum. “Yes, but not enough” was the favorite liberal slogan. Several amendments to the constitution were voted on in the referendum and 58 percent voted “yes.” Well, again the key word was “democratization.”
EU parliament member Daniel Cohn Bendit was one of the advocates of the amendments. During a chat I asked him, whether he read the existing constitution. As he had answered no, this pretty much summarized the necessity of amendments for me.
To be honest some of the changes were actually really unnecessary, in the sense that all of those amendments could have been arranged under the law, not necessarily the constitution. For example, affirmative action for the disabled and the right to be a member of multiple unions at the same time could well be defined under the law. But of course in the 21st century you need a good cover and an effective slogan to sell anything. Actually, the amendments changed the structure of the constitutional court and the High Court of Judges and Prosecutors. It was different times by then again, as the Gülenist community and the government were unified, and both thought the balance of power within the judicial system had to be rearranged.
Time flies indeed and now we apparently need a new constitution again, and this time not for the Copenhagen Criteria or democracy. This time the slogan is a constitution designed by Turks only for Turkey.
One does not have to be a fortune teller to guess what will be in the new constitution; obviously a parliament without any authority and a presidential system with no checks and balances system will be at the core. This will definitely be the main course; I cannot yet predict the sauce though.