However, the process of changing the constitution is as important as its content. Civil society must play an important role in this, as the constitution is a social contract, after all. However, it’s strange that it is Parliament’s speaker who is trying to encourage NGOs to participate in this process. In other words, civil society is not eager to contribute, but politicians are trying to include them. Anyway, very few proposals have been put forward by civil society to Parliament’s Constitutional Reconciliation Commission.
The new constitution is mainly about the protection of human rights and civil liberties. In fact, a very simple amendment could resolve the entire issue: International treaties prevail over domestic legislation. Instead of writing down all of the rights one by one, making a clear reference to international treaties and conventions would be sufficient. Moreover, it is possible to draw up a short and neutral constitution, for example, without any ethnic references whatsoever.
It seems, however, that most people believe human rights will not be respected in this country unless one enumerates them in the Turkish legal corpus. Nevertheless, the “system” will not respect human rights just because it says so in the laws, it will only respect them if all institutions are organized to protect these rights. The existing problems will not be resolved by providing the list of rights we have but by organizing the state’s structure according to these rights. To put it concretely, it will be important whether or not the Higher Education Board (YÖK) or the Directorate of Religious Affairs is included in the new constitution, or if the General Staff is attached to the Ministry of Defense.
Another vital issue is whether or not we’ll keep the existing parliamentary system or adopt a presidential or semi-presidential model. It is obvious that preserving the current system may cause many complications in the future. One of the presidential candidates will have to win more than 50 percent of the vote to be elected, but it’s known that any party that gets more than 36 percent of the vote is able, under the current electoral system, to constitute a one-party government. So, it is not impossible that in the future, we will have a president and a government from opposite parties. Consequently, if we are to keep the parliamentary system, it will be best to reduce the president’s powers. But if we do this, people may ask why we are directly electing someone who has only symbolic powers.
However, if we abandon the parliamentary system, there will be people who’ll claim that the governing party’s only purpose by doing this is to hold on to power. Through many agitations, they will try to persuade people to reject the new constitution by referendum.
Besides, if we adopt the presidential model, we’ll have to organize our legislative bodies accordingly. For instance, a bicameral parliament will be necessary. Our current Parliament will become the lower chamber; however the character of the higher chamber will certainly provoke heated debates. Some will propose the German model, along with a federal system, while others will ask for something like the French Senate. The British model is already out of the question, as there are no lords in Turkey.
There is a serious lack of discussion about these crucial matters. That’s why it is not hard to understand why there isn’t much hope that the new constitution will really bring something new.