New charter still key for societal peace

New charter still key for societal peace

Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission is silently but effectively continuing its efforts to rewrite the Constitution with the initial success of concluding more than 60 articles, nearly one-third of the new charter. Most of the agreed articles are under the section of fundamental rights and freedoms, but more need to be done with regard to accomplishing the sections on the judiciary, public administration etc.

The work of the four-party panel Aug. 12 produced agreement on four more articles, increasing hopes for the first-ever civilian Constitution written by the four political parties represented in Parliament and approved with the votes of the majority of the Turkish people in a referendum.

One of the articles agreed on Aug. 12 is about the wearing of headscarves and reads as follows: “The state takes precautions to remove obstacles and all sorts of discrimination that make it difficult for women to exercise their rights and freedoms in political, social, economic and cultural areas.”

This article is interpreted as the green light for women wearing headscarves to participate freely in public service and to be elected as mayors or lawmakers. If approved before the local elections in March 2014, this constitutional guarantee would surely let the ruling party nominate several women wearing headscarves for mayor and for Parliament in 2015.

This move would not only end the sufferings of women wearing headscarves but also exploitation of this issue by conservative politicians. In addition, agreement on such a controversial issue also shows that efforts for reconciliation and dialogue do not remain futile.

At this point, the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) ambition to adopt the presidential system to decorate the country’s next top leader with super powers and without effective checks and balances still stands as the key challenge. Mustafa Şentop, deputy leader of the AKP, told daily Radikal Aug. 13 that they could revise their proposals regarding the presidential system if the four parties succeed in concluding a good amount of articles. “Although we think [adopting] the presidential system is necessary [for Turkey], our priority is still the new Constitution. If the parties can reach an accord on the new Constitution, then we’ll revise our proposal,” he said.

Amid tense political debate in the aftermath of the Gezi Park protests that sparked fresh rows between the government and its dissidents – which has recently included the powerful Gülen community along with liberals, leftists etc. – the relative success of the four-party panel shyly shines as a weak window of opportunity for Turkey to diffuse this tension and repair the damage done to Turkish public opinion due to the divisive and polarizing political approaches of the government.

In addition to these efforts, the government’s work on a new democratization package would also help diffuse tension and bring about a healthier climate in the country, especially in the course of the Kurdish resolution process. It is of great importance for the government to realize that reconciliation and dialogue are must for societal peace and order as proven during the Gezi Park incidents. And the new Constitution is still the most important tool to this end.