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December 13, 2012, Thursday

Litmus test for gov’t

The new constitution the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission has been working on for a year has been seen by Turkish columnists as a litmus test for the government, which promised to meet the democratic needs of the Turkish people in relation to their rights, culture and religion with the new draft.

However, as time has passed, columnists’ hopes have faded, though they are still alive.

Hasan Cemal from the Milliyet daily says it is hard to come up with a constitution with the conflicting nature of our politics and our poor democratic culture. He believes the constitution that our politicians, who cannot even agree on the definition of the “Kurdish question,” will draft might be a civilian one but not a democratic one. The Milliyet columnist says his hopes for a new constitution have been dashed now because of our black-and-white politics. We have failed to realize that the mindset that sees the decision of the majority as all that matters, that the views of the minority as not important and that denies differences contradicts the concept of true democracy. We have failed to realize that tolerance, reconciliation and dialogue are what constitute democracy. Furthermore, Cemal says, we have seen in the past year that largely getting rid of military tutelage does not necessarily mean that we have opened the doors to democracy for good. We still have a long road to go before achieving full democracy and a completely civilian and democratic constitution.

Zaman’s Mustafa Ünal says the new constitution was the government’s test for 2012 and yet it seems to be failing it as there is still much to be done with regard to the draft. The government should have focused on the drafting process more and it should have dealt with the controversial articles by now, he writes.

Another columnist from Milliyet, Fikret Bila, is also not very optimistic that the draft of the new constitution will be completed by the beginning of 2013, as the prime minister previously instructed the commission. Bila cites the controversial articles of the constitution as the main reason for this, saying that the parties represented in Parliament have not yet reached a consensus over significant issues such as switching to a presidential system or the definition of citizenship.

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