The Kurdish political movement and the Constitution

The Kurdish political movement and the Constitution

The month of May has ended. Thirty days are left for the works of the Constitution Conciliation Commission. It must be determined what will be done at the end of this period. Will a new Constitution be formed? What are the other alternatives?

Yesterday, as a group of journalists, we had a chance to listen to the reviews of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) commission representatives Altan Tan, Meral Danış Bektaş and Sırrı Süreyya Önder regarding these questions.

BDP representatives think that it is not very likely that a full consensus will be reached in the commission. “Even if we negotiate for 10 years, we won’t have a consensus, still,” Altan Tan said.

Over the 1.5 years that have passed since the commission started working, only 43 of 174 negotiated articles were agreed on by the four parties. While one or more parties put annotations on the remaining 131 articles… For instance, only two articles were agreed in the “Preamble” section of the Constitution, while there are annotations on 11 articles in this section. In the “judicial” section, only one article was agreed upon, while the remaining 22 articles were passed over. Also the number of articles agreed on under the category of the executive, which is closely related to the discussions of the new presidential system, is zero.

While the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the BDP displayed similar attitudes in some articles, some titles were supported by the BDP-CHP or the CHP-MHP.

Another example illustrating the diversity is the article defining citizenship. While the BDP proposes “citizenship of Turkey,” the AKP uses the phrase “citizenship of the Republic of Turkey;” the CHP and MHP, however, insist on “Turkish citizenship.”

It is clear that it was not possible to form a new Constitution. When it comes to the question “So what will happen next?” we have three options ahead. A) A transitory and temporary Constitution; B) A limited constitutional reform package; C) Delaying the new Constitution until after the 2014 presidential elections…

In all these scenarios, we come to a point where Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s plans for the new presidential system coincide with the expectations of Kurds on the peace process. If Erdoğan does not agree with the CHP and MHP on the first and second options, he will especially have to take the support of the BDP. To achieve this, the Kurdish political movement needs to meet the expectations of the new Constitution, such as on identity and decentralization.

This is where the BDP representatives of the Kurds’ democratic demands say the AKP has begun showing a decided lack of desire. This attitude has particularly come to the fore since the MHP’s rally in Bursa at the end of March.

The BDP believes that the AKP would risk losing votes in its base were it to enter any sort of bilateral collaboration with the BDP.

Meanwhile, there is no question of the BDP giving a blank check on the Constitution, or supporting a document that does not meet their minimum desires. “It would be stupid to think that we would say ‘yes’ to an empty packet,” said Altan Tan.

As such, BDP representatives believe that the AKP has abandoned their push for a presidential or semi-presidential system. Sırrı Süreyya Önder reminded people of Abdullah Öcalan’s words on the issue, namely, that “we can discuss the presidential system, but only if it isn’t transformed into a hegemonic structure but results in complete democratization. When we’ve had the weight of the Kemalist CHP, we do not want to add a new hump.” These words suggest that Öcalan will not give the green light to Erdoğan on broad presidential powers.

At this point Erdoğan might want to at least try to effect a constitutional amendment to bring in a “party president” model.

Altan Tan has said Erdoğan could try and combine the 2014 presidential election and the 2015 general election so that it would seem that he has the chance of determining his own MP list. But for that, he would need to convince the party’s parliamentary group for early elections. “Whatever way you pull the blanket, something remains out in the open,” Tan said.

Meanwhile, some interesting details emerged from yesterday’s talks. The BDP said AKP representatives have recently been making noises that the commission’s end might be extended until fall instead of the end of June. If this suggestion is serious, it means that Erdoğan’s game plan is still unclear and that he is trying to buy some more time before he makes a strategic move.

In any case, because this ambiguity will delay a comprehensive solution to the Kurdish issue until 2014 and beyond, it could test the patience of the Kurdish public’s expectations.