Turkey’s EU process should be accompanied by new charter

Turkey’s EU process should be accompanied by new charter

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s tour to two opposition parties, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), yielded important results, as three parties have agreed on three top issues.

The first one is the revival of an intra-party parliamentary commission to jointly write the country’s first-ever civilian constitution (a similar initiative had been tried during the previous parliament between 2011 and 2015 but had failed, although they were able to agree on 60 articles). Prime Minister Davutoğlu will meet with Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman on Jan. 6 and inform him about the agreement provided by three parties which occupy 491 seats out of 550 and represent nearly 85 percent of the Turkish voters according to the Nov 1, 2015, elections.

The second agreement was also very important, as all three parties re-underlined the need for a comprehensive change of the internal parliament regulations, as all have complaints about their inefficiency. Therefore, a separate commission will likely be formed in the coming weeks to deal with this issue before parliament fully engages by pouring legal and constitutional draft amendments.

Third, but not least, was an agreement to swiftly adopt laws in regards to the EU harmonization process, as there are important bills Turkey has to legislate by March so it can carry on down the road to visa liberalization later this year.

This understanding between three parties was crucially important and should be considered a step in the right direction. However, this does not mean that challenges and major problems before the realization of all these plans should be ignored.

There are two major issues before this promising outline: The insistence on the adoption of the presidential system and the rise of violence in the eastern regions of Turkey after talks for a peaceful solution were nullified.    

On the first issue, it should well be recalled that previous attempt for the rewriting of the constitution collapsed because of an insistence on the change of the administrative system. The current picture recalls that parties other than the Justice and Development Party (AKP) are still distanced from this idea and have made clear there will be no change in their minds. Furthermore, a number of public opinion surveys suggested that a good majority of the Turkish people were against the presidential system. Past experience should make clear to AKP officials that insisting on the presidential system will lead to the collapse of this attempt as well, at the expense of killing mass hopes for the new charter.

The second challenge is the way the government is trying to resolve the Kurdish question. This stands as a very interesting dilemma on the government’s side; it was the AKP governments which realized in full clarity that security-oriented solutions do not bring results other than worsening the situation in the field. It was with this conclusion that they had launched a very courageous process that included negotiations with some terrorist leaders which came very close to a breakthrough.

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) ending the cease-fire and using all means to turn the country into a battleground made things worse and weakened the political ground of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). A constitution can still be made without the constructive participation of the HDP, but that will surely be deficient and not very meaningful.

To make a long story short, this promising beginning for the new constitution should be drawn in such a way that it will not be sacrificed to one party’s insistence on the adoption of a certain system. Second, a healthy and meaningful beginning should surely include the HDP by abandoning threats of lifting the immunities of its party officials. The HDP, on the other hand, has to play its role in ending violence in eastern cities and restoring public order.

The only way to make 2016 a year of reforms and of the EU is to leave violence behind and return to the table for sound dialogue over the settlement of Turkey’s top problems.