Wise men and not-so-wise men

Wise men and not-so-wise men

Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek was the guest yesterday of the traditional Diplomatic Correspondents’ Association breakfast meeting. Çiçek, a veteran politician, is of course an expert on what to say, how to say it and what not to say. He discussed the work on the new Constitution, the efforts of the government to find resolutions to the separatist terrorism problem and the Kurdish issue and many other hardcore subjects of the country. The reader would find details of all these in the news pages. I must say, he was rather outspoken.

As the speaker of Parliament, and since the writing of a new Constitution has been “continuing” under his auspices since May of last year, the issue is of course the number one item on Çiçek’s agenda. Despite all the criticisms and trading of barbs between parties on many constitutional matters, such as changes to the definition of citizenship, the status of religion and most importantly of all to the governing system of Turkey, Çiçek remains upbeat.

“From August 2014 on, we will have a rather awkward and crisis-prone situation if we do not act now and eradicate this anomaly,” he said. Under the amended current Constitution, in August 2014 Turkey will elect its president by popular vote. Most probably the president will be elected with higher electoral support than the prime minister. We’ll have an elected premier with popular support and a chief executive president with wider popular support. Çiçek is very much concerned about a potential clash of powers between the two posts that would result in a state crisis. He believes that after parties complete writing the non-contentious articles, “within weeks” the remaining few articles they disagree on might be revisited. A politician with a strong nationalist background, Çiçek believes that with goodwill and dedication to the wellbeing of the country, all issues could be resolved. But, could Parliament compromise even on the definition of Turkishness and agree on a Constitution with a revolutionary approach to such a very hot potato? Surprisingly, despite his political background, he believes it ought to produce a definition that everyone must feel comfortable with.

Are the writing of a new Constitution and efforts to resolve the separatist Kurdish terrorism issue related? For Çiçek, there are many answers. Yes, because the Constitution is a social contract, the Kurdish issue is a social problem, the Constitution must include elements eradicating the woes or at least catering to some key expectations of the Kurdish population so that their bonds of citizenship might be enforced.

He did not say their bonds were weakened now, but he is a man who knows well how to emphasize issues by not spelling them out. Indeed, like him many people have been supporting the current effort of the government in the awareness that faltering in resolution might produce graver consequences and render very difficult the preservation of the territorial integrity of the country.

Were things progressing well? Çiçek appeared to have a serious complaint. “A committee of wise men will be created… Who are those wise men? Are they cleverer than I, than you? They are clever and we are crazy… Such wording is unproductive.” Indeed looking at the lists of prospective wise men, I say, “If these are wise men, one should thank God that he was not a wise man.”

Peace has been something we have been longing for and are now ready to make sacrifices to attain.