The prime minister’s Strasbourg performance

The prime minister’s Strasbourg performance

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s Strasbourg visit was successful. In this piece, I want to focus on what the prime minister said on the new constitution. 

While the government is making propaganda about a “domestic and national constitution” in Turkey, it is noteworthy that the prime minister emphasized “universal democratic values” to European parliamentarians in Strasbourg. 

First of all, it is absolutely correct that Turkey needs to write a civilian constitution. The prime minister also said “a liberal constitution,” which is also absolutely right.

However, in terms of a concrete article in the current constitution that the prime minister and the government agree is against freedoms… This has still not been explained. 

Besides complaining about inadequate freedoms, the government has always complained of the broadness of freedoms and the separation of powers in the past few years…

If the new constitution is to be written with such a mentality, then how would it be based on “universal democratic values?” How will it be “more pro-freedoms?” 

Each constitution, indeed, possesses domestic and national features: a language, flag, capital city, country and even a history in the preamble… But, how do we explain the insulting of judicial organs just because they applied European Court of Human Rights practices and accusing it of being anti-national using “universal democratic values?” 

The only matter that the government is complaining about today in the current constitution is “two-headedness.” There is a serious problem here in terms of “the philosophy of constitution:” Is the two-headedness of the presidency and the Prime Ministry a matter to complain about or is it one of the mechanisms of “check and balances,” which is an essential principle of democracy? 

More importantly, if the powers of the presidency of the state and the presidency of the government are united in one, then how would the legislative organ and the justice restrict this power and how will it audit it?
The government’s discourse on this matter is not clear. 

As a matter of fact, the first condition for an administrative system to be considered democratic is that governing powers should be restricted, balanced, controllable and open to be criticized.

Professor Mensur Akgün said the prime minister’s Strasbourg visit was effective and that Turkey needed speeches like this one in the West. 

However, he noted in his daily Karar column on April 20, “The biggest need of Turkey is to solve its domestic problems and to free itself of these loads it carries in matters such as rule of law and freedom of expression.

It was yesterday in Strasbourg while I was listening to the prime minister that I could not keep myself from thinking how much more our effect would have been if we did not have such baggage...”  

There is indeed a heavy load in fields such as “rule of law and freedom of expression” and this does not stem from the constitution. On the contrary, it stems from the government practices used to enforce the constitution. 

If the new constitution is going to be written with such a feeling of power, is it possible to not be concerned about this? 

The current constitution was, at a certain conjuncture, accepted with 91 percent of the vote. If the conjuncture is fine-tuned, a similar constitution could be accepted in the current polarized environment with the power of propaganda.  However, it is also a scientific fact that constitutions not based on national consensus cause major crises.