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December 20, 2011, Tuesday

Will a new constitution be written?

As a committee of the Foundation for Journalists and Writers, we have presented to the parliamentary commission our views on six major issues on the making of a new constitution. Subsequent to a presentation by the board chair, Mustafa Yeşil, as members of the board of trustees, Ali Bulaç and I answered some questions.

Whenever I go to Ankara, I sense pessimism. It is as if Ankara is an area where people who do not trust each other plot new conspiracies. This time, I sensed that it seems pretty difficult to make a new constitution. The insistence of the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on preserving some of the red lines is referred to as the most important reason for this.

The vast majority of people today care about the drafting of a new constitution by civilians. This alone is sufficient to explain how crucial the matter is. For the first time in a century, we have the opportunity to remove military guardianship from a fundamental legal text. For the first time, there is vast popular consensus over further democratization. The popular will and support as evidenced by the referendum held on Sept. 12, 2010 is still fresh and alive. Turkey now has a vast consensus on the rule of law, the expansion of freedoms and the adoption of diversities as a source of wealth. This is the consensus of the new Turkey, and those who fail to see or acknowledge this are destined to lose; the politicians, the media and bar associations that fail to appreciate this new state of affairs will lose.

Let us just recall the case of the CHP; why is the CHP losing? Why is it trapped in internal disagreements? It is because a certain circle within the party is preventing it from adapting to the realities of the new Turkey. For instance, what would have happened if it had acted this way instead of making its past mistakes? Instead of a statement by Onur Öymen that “we would have undersigned it” in reference to the April 27, 2007 military memorandum, what if the party had acted before the AK Party and said, “Such an intervention in politics would be unacceptable for a democracy.” For instance, at the time when the constitutional amendment was adopted by Parliament, what if it had said, “There is no need for a referendum; given that this is the decision of Parliament, we will say yes to the package.” For instance, what if it had not expressed support for pro-Ergenekon figures at a time when we had the opportunity to deal with the illegal structures within the state? What if they had not nominated Ergenekon suspects as deputy candidates? Would it have had to respond to the question of what good Mustafa Balbay and Mehmet Haberal were to the CHP? What if it had subscribed to the democratic secularism standard of the EU with respect to secularism; would that have been detrimental to the CHP? Would it be wrong if the CHP acted first to criticize the headscarf ban introduced by the İstanbul Bar Association against intern lawyers who were wearing headscarves?

The new Turkey will be a Turkey that is crowned with a bright future and democracy. In a Turkey of vast highways, you cannot drive in the left lane in an outdated car. If you have a stubborn old man behind the steering wheel who cannot see and hear properly, the case becomes even more difficult and grave.

The mentality of the new Turkey should be dominant in the new constitution. We can agree on constitutional citizenship based on equality that sees our diversity as a source of wealth without reference to a sense of belonging and identity. We have to prefer sharing over polarization. For internal peace and reconciliation, we should stop imposing our ideas, lifestyles and worldviews on each other. In the words of the new constitution, we should consider the peace of future generations rather than the chants of the stands.

Yes, we have to try to understand others and be ready to share. Turkey will be too much for a single party, a single group and a single center of power -- so is the world. The world is too much for any single power. Take the US. It ignored the UN during the occupation of Iraq. It asked nobody. It acted rudely and arrogantly. Is it now standing tall while leaving Iraq?

The social consensus over the new constitution will lead to a new state of affairs where sharing will be visible. It is now time to make a new constitution. Those who avoid this responsibility will lose -- be it the ruling party or the opposition, it does not matter.

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