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March 24, 2011, Thursday

Discourse on drafting new constitution may push AK Party over 50 percent

There are only a few months left before the elections.

As they prepare for the elections, which are extremely important for the ongoing change and renovation in the country, the political parties seem to be satisfied with the results of pre-election surveys. Still, it is highly beneficial for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to explain its objectives for its next government term more clearly and build its election strategy accordingly.

To cut a long story short, it should take the lead in drafting a new constitution and fine-tuning efforts to expand the civilian sphere, as the general public expects them to do. As the elections near, the public is waiting for the government to develop and declare a clear discourse on the matter.

One major actor that may affect the election is undoubtedly the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). As it did in the run-up to previous elections, it will try to increase tension in the country and mobilize reactionary voters through provocative actions. Indeed, Bengi Yıldız and Sebahat Tuncel of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) confirmed this with their actions during Nevruz festivities. This is because the PKK and its political extensions are among the groups most disturbed by a change in the status quo.

The Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) -- or more correctly, its leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s -- main goal is beating former leader Deniz Baykal in the elections. That is why he makes election promises that ring a “populist” tune, as they are made without much premeditation. In other words, he gives the impression that he is trying to secure as many votes as possible, knowing that he will not be elected to office.

Nevertheless, the CHP’s move for paid military service, however controversial it may be, was a very good one. It was against the wishes of the military, which the CHP has never criticized, backing it up at every opportunity. This development in itself represents a significant step toward the expansion of the civilian sphere in the country.

But we must actually talk about what the ruling AK Party’s election strategy should be. Being confined to the terms imposed on it by the opposition will be to the disadvantage of the AK Party. Therefore, it must place greater and renewed emphasis on a new and modern constitution to earn the sympathy of groups “otherified” by the state. Only in this way can it win the hearts of the victims of the so-called liberal Constitution of 1961, as well as the later coup Constitution of 1982, which minimized public sovereignty and established tutelary institutions. In other words, the general public expects the AK Party to promise a more modern, freer and more advanced country to the “otherified” groups of this country, including Alevis, Kurds, leftists and actually all citizens in the country, and to keep that promise.

Everyone, albeit some reluctantly, agrees that the AK Party has undertaken great projects during its nine years in office. Turkey has made great strides in economic terms. Six zeros were removed from the national currency and inflation is largely under control. Overall, the level of country’s economic welfare has significantly increased. Major infrastructure projects were completed. The majority of the highways were transformed into divided multi-lane roads, etc.

Turkey enjoys increased influence both in its region and across the globe. Important steps have been taken in respect to expanding the civilian sphere. The referendum held on Sept. 12 was a historic turning point which witnessed an overwhelming “yes” in elections. The AK Party has undoubtedly acted as a driving force for these developments.

Given all this, I believe that the AK Party must now bring all these efforts for democratization to a successful conclusion, resting its entire strategy on the project of drafting a new constitution and starting debates on this project. If this is not done, Turkey may see another 1993 situation, God forbid. As you will recall, late Prime Minister Turgut Özal, elected to office after the military rule of Sept. 12, undertook important steps toward democratization, but he died, possibly through assassination, in 1993 and the deep state made sure to undo everything he had accomplished.

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