[email protected]

October 11, 2011, Tuesday

New constitution: Should we be optimistic?

Questions of optimism are frequently asked with respect to the process of drafting a new constitution for Turkey because there remains uncertainty over the attitudes of the Republican People's Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

Above all else, it is important to recall this fundamental point: A new constitution is a necessity. For the first time, we are confronting investigations into coup attempts currently being handled by the judiciary and the longstanding regime of military guardianship in Turkey. This confrontation should result in democratization. The will and choice to have a new constitution, stressed by 58 percent of the population in the Sept. 12, 2010 referendum, indicates this desire for democratization. Those who argue that the supporters of democratization in the referendum were not aware of what they had decided now must realize the power of this will thanks to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) having been voted into power with 50 percent support in the June 12 elections. In other words, the views of these people who make up 58 percent of the referendum and 50 percent of the elections should be considered when drafting the new constitution. Those who are insincere in their support of a new constitution and those who try to create obstacles will destroy their own political careers against in the wake of the determined stance of the people as evidenced by the electoral will displayed in these last two national votes.

The AK Party owes a new constitution to this nation. This is the most important and most vital responsibility of its third term in office because a new constitution will declare the end of the guardianship regime and base democratization on solid constitutional and legal grounds. The guardianship regime will be stripped of its legitimacy and support base.

It is clear that the guardianship system has been justified by and based on the 1982 coup Constitution. The existing Constitution is a product of Kemalist state ideology. The guardianship mentality will attempt to preserve the impact and traces of this ideology. Dissenters will use Atatürk and the state of being Turkish as shields by declaring: “We will not let you touch Turkishness. You cannot erase Atatürk nationalism.” The first crossroads of the discussion surrounding a new constitution will be the first three articles of the Constitution that cannot possibly be amended. Let us recall these articles:

1. The Turkish state is a republic;

2. The Republic of Turkey is a democratic, secular and social state governed by the rule of law, bearing in mind the concepts of public peace, national solidarity and justice, respect for human rights, loyalty to the nationalism of Atatürk and based on the fundamental tenets set forth in the Preamble;

3. The Turkish state, with its territory and people, is an indivisible entity. Its language is Turkish. Its flag, the form of which is prescribed by the relevant law, is composed of a white crescent and star on a red background. Its national anthem is the İstiklal Marşı (Independence March). Its capital is Ankara.

Yes, Article 1 should remain the same. In Article 3, “its language” should be replaced by “its official language.” The expression “loyalty to the nationalism of Atatürk” should be taken out because there is no type of nationalism associated with a person. In addition, there is no comprehensive definition for the nationalism of Atatürk. For this reason, it is being abused; more importantly, “the nationalism of Atatürk” was inserted by the Sept. 12 coup perpetrators in order to conceal their Kemalist ideology. Their guardianship mentality fortified the official ideology after the 1960 coup. To this end, Kemalism was invented as an ideology to justify and legitimize this guardianship after the demise of Atatürk. However, when Kemalism attracted criticism, it was further protected and shielded by “the nationalism of Atatürk.”

The principles spelled out in the Preamble of the Constitution are also lengthy, vague and ideological. These principles may be drafted as follows, based on the content of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union: “Conscious of its spiritual and moral heritage, this Constitution is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. It places the individual at the heart of its activities by establishing the citizenship of the Republic of Turkey and by creating an area of freedom, security and justice.”

The new constitution should not be blocked by other political parties, including the BDP. At present, polls indicate that 75 percent of people want a new constitution. For the sake of the future and stability of Turkey, the AK Party, even if it is left all alone, should keep working on drafting a new constitution. In case of a deadlock, it should immediately seek an early election.

Many people ask me if I am optimistic. I answer that I have been optimistic about the future of this country for 43 years. I shall respond adding the words of Necip Fazil Kısakürek, a renown Turkish poet: "The wheel has passed over the hillock."

Previous articles of the columnist