Havel’s constitution, Erdoğan’s constitution

Havel’s constitution, Erdoğan’s constitution

I found the chance to meet late Czech President Vaclav Havel, a man of arts and politics, together with a number of Turkish media heavyweights at a breakfast during his state visit to Turkey in October 2000. In his short but guiding answers to our successive questions, Havel pointed out at ecologic and demographic problems as well as the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world. But what astonished me most was an answer he gave to one of our colleagues’ question on whether he had a bedside book he could never cease to read: “The constitution of the Czech Republic.”

For a young journalist who grew in a country whose constitution was a product of a military junta and where the principle of the rule of law was the subject of daily violations, Havel’s answer was a stimulating one and still is. 

This is simply because Turkey could not make a single step forward over the last decade in terms of improving the value of a respectful constitution embracing the needs and rights of all segments of society among the politicians and top decision-makers. Having failed in previous attempts to renew the charter, the Parliament has once again rolled up sleeves for a more democratic and pro-freedom constitution. 

However some current political developments are enough to prove the lack of mature democratic culture, an essential aspect for the constitution-making process. A discussion on the length of the current President’s term suffices to prove this deficiency. 

A constitutional amendment in 2007 reduced the tenure of the president from seven to five years but the government at the time ignored the need to make necessary amendments to avoid future confusion on Abdullah Gül’s mandate as he was elected just before constitutional amendments. The ruling party did it on purpose in a move to keep the presidential elections as a tool in its political strategy. 

For many, the government would prefer a five-year mandate for the president if things would not go on the right track and to have Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan elected to the post.
After the ruling party’s landslide victory in the June 12 elections, the government foresaw that Erdoğan could be elected for the presidency in 2014’s popular vote. It’s not going to be, however, a symbolic presidency for Erdoğan who does not hide his desire for a presidential system. His party is readying a draft law to end confusion by stating that Gül’s mandate is seven years, a move violating Article 101 of the constitution which says the president is elected for a five-year term with a chance to be re-elected through popular vote. In case of the adoption of this law, the opposition has already vowed to take it to the constitutional court for annulment. 

This was just one sample of how the value of constitution is degraded at the hands of Turkish politicians. One can count a dozen of them at once. The ongoing process in Parliament should not only aim at rewriting the articles but also at earning a reputation for the constitution of Turkey, just like that of late Vaclav Havel’s country.