Panel for new charter starts landmark duty in Turkey

Panel for new charter starts landmark duty in Turkey

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Panel for new charter starts landmark duty in Turkey

The last ‘Turkey Speaks’ meeting was held April 28 in Istanbul with the attendances of Çiçek and TOBB head Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu. AA Photo

Turkey’s Constitutional Reconciliation Commission will begin penning down the contents of the first civilian constitution starting tomorrow following a six-month-preparatory process on the charter.

The people’s expectations will be “decisive” in penning down the new constitution, Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek said April 28.

“The new constitution should reflect all colors, smells, motives, cultures and expectations of the citizens. This is the liability of the four parties and the Parliament as well. We are in debt to you and you are the claimant. You should be the pursuer of this debt,” Çiçek said on April 28 at the last meeting of the Turkey Speaks platform in Istanbul.

Before the commission begins penning the articles, Çiçek is expected to meet with prominent constitutional experts to discuss the methodology of writing the charter. This process is expected to take few weeks, sources said.

The new constitution will be drafted in Ankara in a parliamentary building. The commission will start with the articles that will be easier to agree on, while contentious issues will be referred to the party leaders, who will then try to reach a consensus. A very strict blackout will be implemented on the commission work in an effort to stop the leakage of the articles, which could ignite untimely discussion.
Each of the four parties represented in the Constitution Conciliation Commission will submit the names of two advisors, but will have a larger list of advisors that they can alternately consult with.

Cautious optimism widespread

Although there is high optimism for the new charter, opposition parties have expressed worries in regards to the government’s potential shadow over the charter.

Atilla Kart, a commission member from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), raised concerns about the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) attitude toward the new constitution and said the panel would not be successful unless it overcame “the ruling party’s imposing mentality.”
“The main problem of the constitution-making process is the imposing mentality of the ruling party. We can be successful in the new constitution process if we overcome this. We say ‘no’ to a constitution and democracy to the extent that the prime minister allows. We insist on the constitution that people demand from us,” Kart told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Faruk Bal, a commission member from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), said all citizens must benefit from the new constitution regardless of their identity but added that national unity should be preserved. “The new constitution should reconcile the state and the nation and should associate democracy with the Republic.”

Justice, freedom and equality

The Constitution Conciliation Commission and prominent civil society organizations led by the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges (TOBB) toured 13 provinces around the country under the name of the “Turkey Speaks” platform to take the pulse of the people and their expectations for the charter.

One-third of the “Turkey Speaks” participants were representatives of nongovernmental organizations while the remaining two-thirds were ordinary citizens who were invited randomly via mobile phone. Over 6,500 people attended Turkey Speaks meetings.

The two most important concepts that must be highlighted in the new constitution are “justice” and “freedom,” according to the majority of the people who expressed their expectations and demands from the new charter.

Over 70 percent of the participants suggested that the new charter should respond to the question of “justice” and “freedom.” Between 10 and 18 of participants chose “equality” as a third option.

The vast majority of the participants – between 96 and 99 percent in all provinces – said the new charter should feature a more effective mechanism of accountability for politicians, with over 90 percent supporting limitations on parliamentary immunity.

The participants’ opinions and expectations on the new constitution will be submitted as a report to the Constitution Conciliation Commission.