Turkey’s political parties divided over ‘red lines’ in charter

Turkey’s political parties divided over ‘red lines’ in charter

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey’s political parties divided over ‘red lines’ in charter

The ‘irrevocable’ articles of the Constitution are the first three articles that defined the Republic’s characteristics. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

A long delayed row over the first four “irrevocable” articles of the Constitution, marking all four political parties’ “red lines,” has been revived at a recent meeting of the Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission, with parties appearing strongly inclined to stand their ground.

Eventually, the parties could not attain a consensus during the session on Aug. 21, as deep cracks among the four parties were once more and strikingly highlighted during debates.

At the meeting, both the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) insisted that there cannot be “irrevocable” articles in a Constitution, while the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) demanded to keep the status quo.

The first three “irrevocable” articles of the Constitution, and the fourth one declaring them irrevocable, define the characteristics of the Republic, classified as a “democratic, secular and social state,” amid regulating the integrity of the state, the official language, flag, national anthem and capital.

During the session, AKP deputy Mustafa Şentop argued that there should be no irrevocable articles in the new Constitution, a view backed by BDP’s Meral Danış Beştaş.

“We are drafting a civilian Constitution. In a civilian Constitution, there cannot be irrevocable articles. There was no such thing in the first three constitutions. Are you claiming ownership of a regulation by generals in ’82,” Şentop said, deeming the 1982 Constitution currently in effect a “product of a coup.”
The current 1982 Constitution is a legacy of the Sept. 12, 1980 coup. It had replaced the Constitution of 1961, which also had been drafted following a military coup.

In support, Bengi Yıldız, another BDP deputy, deemed the first four articles a “societal engineering project.”

‘Atatürk nationalism’

“We are against the ‘Atatürk nationalism’,” Yıldız said, referring to the official nationalism of Turkey since the founding of the Republic by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, which is also dubbed as “official Kemalist nationalism.”

“We are against the definition of Turkish state and nation. These do not include Kurds,” Yıldız added.

On the opposite, CHP deputy Atilla Kart and MHP deputy Faruk Bal gave examples from European countries to note that irrevocable articles exist in advanced countries as well and they must be conserved.

The ruling AKP has resisted withdrawing the presidency proposal, a longtime ambition of the party and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, until there is tangible progress in drafting, including the first four articles. Şentop reiterated that for them to withdraw the proposal, the draft should be shaped first, and that they wanted to see the “attitude” of the opposition on the first four articles.

“It is not possible for us to accept such approach. We see this as a cheap understanding of politics,” Kart said, speaking to reporters following the meeting.MHP’s Bal also affirmed that they would not allow an amendment in the first four articles, and this was their red line.

The Commission will meet again on Aug. 23, yet a consensus is still unlikely. Nevertheless, the parties seem determined to stay at the table.