‘Constitutional amendment will bring democracy, not crisis’

‘Constitutional amendment will bring democracy, not crisis’

TUSKON head Rızanur Meral says the economy and democracy are inextricably linked to one another, explaining that developed economies always have advanced democracies.

April 05, 2010, Monday/ 16:39:00
As the government talks to leading organizations of the business world, seeking support for the constitutional amendment package that was submitted to Parliament last week, top business groups in Turkey, including the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON), the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSAİD), the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (MÜSİAD) and the Anatolian Lions Businessmen’s Association (ASKON), have stressed the need for a new constitution.

TUSKON, in particular, has presented the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) with its own suggestions for constitutional reform. Speaking to Today’s Zaman, TUSKON President Rızanur Meral said Turkey urgently needs a new constitution that would bring it closer to the level of developed countries.

He also criticized some business circles that had said their main concern was the economy, not the constitutional package. He said constitutional change would not cause a crisis, adding that it would, to the contrary, serve as a great opportunity that would raise the country’s democratic standards. Meral said TUSKON would support to all changes that expand freedoms and democracy. He also stated that he expected the package to be passed in Parliament, but said there would be a public vote on the package if this does not happen.

‘The need for a new constitution that is more civilian in nature, that includes more freedoms in it and that can respond to the needs of all segments of society is more evident then ever,’ says TUSKON head Rızanur Meral, supporting the government’s package as a positive step in the direction of constitutional change

Meral said TUSKON members overwhelmingly support constitutional change. “TUSKON is Turkey’s largest civil society organization. There are seven federations, 150 associations and 15,000 businessmen under our roof. We have contacted all of them and observed that they support the proposed changes to the Constitution. Not only TUSKON, but other business organizations support the change.”

Sharing TUSKON’s views on the current Constitution, Meral said, “We think that our current Constitution is cut too narrowly for Turkey and that it is too weak to carry Turkey. I am seeing a constitution that was drafted under the extraordinary circumstances of the ’80s, at a time when the Cold War was determinedly under way and when a foreign policy based on fear was being pursued in Turkey. All segments of society now agree that the Constitution is not compatible with Turkey’s new conditions. The need for a new constitution that is more civilian in nature, that includes more freedoms in it and that can respond to the needs of all segments of society is more evident then ever.” He said TUSKON supported the government’s package as a positive step in the direction of constitutional change. He also stated that the economy and democracy were inextricably linked to one another. “In developed economies, you always have advanced democracies. We see that when we look at Europe. We, as the business world, say that a Turkey where the law is supreme in its universal sense and content will be a country where people will make plans for the future and invest.”

Meral said TUSKON attached great importance to changes to political party closure rules. “The fact that party closures are between the lips of a single person poses one of the greatest risks to Turkey and to Turkey’s investment opportunities. We have seen this heavily in the past two years. When a party closure case is being heard, foreign investors prefer to wait until the end of the case. We believe that shutting down political parties must be made much more difficult as in advanced democracies so they will not stall foreign and domestic investors’ plans.”

TUSKON’s proposed amendments to the Constitution

  • Closure of political parties (Article 69): Political party closure trials can be launched with the vote a three-fourth majority in a secret vote in Parliament following a demand from the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals. Party closure decisions are ultimately made by the Constitutional Court.
  • General Staff (Article 117):The authority and responsibility for securing domestic order in times of war lie with the Interior Ministry, which exercises this duty through security forces under it. Social security rights, promotions and disciplinary affairs regarding the security forces personnel including its administrators are decided by the Interior Ministry.
  • Administrative decisions closed to appeal (Article 125): Acts carried out by the president alone, promotion and transfer decisions of the Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) and the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors’ (HSYK) appointment, authority and election decisions are outside judicial review.
  • Disciplinary action against public servants (Article 129): All decisions regarding disciplinary action are open to judicial review with the provisions regarding members of the armed forces and judges and prosecutors.

TUSKON’s proposal regarding party closures is to engage Parliament in the process. “A three-fourths majority of Parliament should vote for a party closure case to be launched by the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals in a confidential vote. Parliament, which represents the nation, should be the only decider of party closures.” In the AK Party’s package, five people from each party represented in Parliament would form a body that would vote on a prosecutor’s request to launch a trial against a political party.

TUSKON, Meral stated, firmly believes that military officials should be tried in civilian courts for all crimes except war crimes and issues that are directly related to military service. “We believe that the proposal in the government’s package in this regard is highly appropriate,” he said.

Meral said the amendment in the package regulating appointments to the Constitutional Court needs to be worked on. “The world is changing all the time. This is why we don’t support the requirement of a minimum age of 45 for Constitutional Court members. Twelve years of service on the court is also a lengthy period. In the private sector, there is this concept we call sectoral blindness. This is why many businesses rotate employees to different positions every few years. We think these agencies should also take on a more dynamic structure. The condition of having served for 20 years [in the constitutional package] is also a very harsh prerequisite. We would like this to be lowered to 15.”

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