Testing maturity of Turkish democracy

Testing maturity of Turkish democracy

The Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) parliamentary group was bursting at the seams on Tuesday as dozens of party fellows, journalists and voters filled the hall to convey their condolences on the demise of Tenzile Erdoğan, mother of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

It was obvious that Erdoğan had been deeply affected by the loss of his mother as one could easily read it on the prime minister’s face. He started his speech by saying: “I was beside a tombstone at Karacaahmet Cemetery yesterday (Oct. 10) and I’m here now with you, among deputies. It’s a tough situation, but as you know, this is life.”

With his return to Ankara, Prime Minister Erdoğan got down to his agenda, putting the constitution-making process on top of it, followed by the fight against terror and the Syrian turmoil.

On the constitution, Erdoğan preferred to convey moderate messages as the representatives of political parties are getting ready for the first meeting of the parliamentary commission established by Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek.

Drawing a link between Turkey’s advice to regional countries to amend their charters in a short time-span - indirectly referring to Syria - and Turkey’s own efforts to rewrite its junta-made constitution, Erdoğan rebuffed opposition parties’ criticism on setting a one-year deadline for the process. “How could not we conclude our work in one year when we suggest to these countries to amend their constitutions in three or six months?” he asked.

Government officials underlined that the parties’ agreement in launching the process without any pre-condition is hope-inspiring. However, many in Ankara believe the constitution-making course will be a bumpy one given current political tensions.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s revelation of deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay as the “mole” in the ongoing Lighthouse embezzlement case will obviously once again strain ties between the ruling and main opposition parties.

The National Movement Party’s (MHP) insistence on a quick cross-border operation into northern Iraq and its strong-worded criticism of the government for holding secret meetings with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) stands as an obstacle to reasonable ties between the two.

Last but not least, an increasingly aggressive Peace and Development Party (BDP), furious over mass detentions of Kurdish politicians and activists, will be a hard negotiator for the new charter.

The parties have proven their candid intention to make the new charter. They should also be capable in keeping the parliamentary commission free of daily political polemics for the sake of the process. The 12 members of the commission, three deputies from each of the four political parties, will bear a historic responsibility to this end. They should be wise and responsible in not joining their colleagues in daily quarrels or efforts to undermine the process.

A failure in this process will be an unfortunate mark on Turkish democracy, which Erdoğan is proudly trying to export to neighboring countries. Killing off this process will also hurt Turkey’s ambitions to become a regional leader as well.