Stork brings a constitution to Turkey
BELGİN AKALTAN - firstname.lastname@example.orgAll of our constitutions somehow seem as if they were brought by storks. What I mean is they are brought effortlessly, without a struggle, with no contribution from the ground, dropped from the air…
They were discussed, prepared and written somewhere else, in upper Turkey, somewhere in the clouds where ordinary people like us cannot reach... The last two were brought to us wrapped in shiny packages and we were expected to go and vote for them. In one case, it was compulsory to vote.
We unfortunately do not have a constitutional culture. What we have is an “approve first then blame the constitution” culture. We generally hate our current constitutions and think they are the source of every evil in Turkey, and then approach the new one as if it were a magical booklet that has the capacity to solve all the problems in the country.
The metaphor in the title actually works. The constitution should be the child, the product, the art piece of the nation, conceived with love. Healthy minds, healthy bodies, love, a meaningful and long relationship, unprotected sex, blood, sweat and tears and a long waiting period for it to be born are all needed. When it is brought by a stork then it is unreal; it is a fairy tale for children, like our past, present and future constitutions.
Other nations fought wars, civil wars, reached a consensus after serious troubles to have or to make their constitutions. True constitutions have a story and history behind them. Our story of constitutions is a bunch of guys coming together and deciding for us. Then another bunch of guys come together, abolish it and write another constitution.
Our 1924 constitution was a survival constitution. It was the declaration of a small nation challenging the big powers of the world, toppling an empire and forming a new republican system. However, it did not meet the requirements of the multi-party democracy later to come.
Then came the 1961 constitution, which was later considered “too big” for us, as it had too many freedoms in it for this society. Can any constitution have “too many” freedoms? The right wing hated it. Before the freedom atmosphere of the 1961 constitution was truly adopted, before masses developed their mentality in the light of these freedoms, the 1980 coup came, abolishing the 1961 constitution.
The 1982 constitution was not even discussed. Social segments did not have any expectations from it either. It was quite an illegitimate child. Nobody believed it.
The language of the 1982 constitution is bad. Sentences have double meanings; understanding it is difficult. Its amendments are even worse with many more mistakes… Take the example of how many years President Abdullah Gül’s term was. Nobody including himself knew if it were five or seven.
Strangely enough, mentioning Abdullah Gül and remembering his wife, the couple now looks adorable in my mind. Strange. Maybe they were not so bad after all… Somehow, the interest rate of the Central Bank looks very nice to my eyes now…
The easiest thing in Turkey is to blame the constitution. Actually, a true constitution is a living thing. It breaths, it grows. The allegory (brought by a stork) continues: It needs to be loved, nurtured, grown and modernized. Here we blame the constitution for everything that goes wrong, like a Turkish family raising a child. Not all, but in some Turkish families children are always yelled at (Like my upstairs neighbors).
Just look at the parliament today. Take a look at its members. Do you think they have the capacity to write a constitution, a social document that the entire society or its majority would embrace? I bet they cannot even write a sentence in that sense.
Constitutional citizenship is now discussed as a new concept. Yes, sure. Everybody understands what it means.
Just look at our people. All of us. Give us a relatively simple sentence; you will come up with 78 million different interpretations. When we cannot agree on one sentence, one concept, one interpretation of any given topic, how do you expect people to agree on a book, on principles, on approaches? On understanding the most intricate forms of law…
We shoot each other at condominium meetings…
In 1982, 91.37 percent voted in favor of the constitution. I have always been proud to be among the remaining 8.63 percent. I wonder how all of today’s political leaders who are preparing to change the constitution right now voted in the 1982 referendum. Most probably positive… So what is the validity, the logic of the new constitution even if it is approved by 99 percent of the nation? I mean, the whole equation is meaningless. If you voted yes to that in 1982 and now you are changing it, then any high percentage of approval votes for this new one does not really mean much of anything.
What I mean is do not be too hopeful. It is not magic. It is only words written on paper. Black and white...
Do I have a solution after all the criticism I brought? Not really. Just leave the constitution alone. It will not solve anything. Focus on mechanisms to guarantee basic rights. Let us see a working constitution and we may love it after that. Don’t attribute too much meaning or magic to any constitution.
After all, if the stork brought the constitution, maybe that would better suit the situation, as it is not very real…