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December 17, 2012, Monday

All or nothing constitution

Turkey has been waiting with bated breath since the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission started its work on the preparation of a new constitution.

 Completion of the draft was scheduled for the end of 2012. However, as 2013 nears and some parts of the draft remain untouched, columnists’ disappointment grows, urging them to ponder what should be done.

Gülay Göktürk from the Bugün daily says we are sadly going to enter 2013 with dashed hopes for the new constitution. The columnist emphasizes that constitutions are almost always written from scratch following revolutions or coups. Parliaments in democratic regimes rarely achieve that because they have historical continuity. Parliaments cannot disregard political history and launch a brand new era. That being said, we should discuss both whether it is possible for parliaments to function like constituent assemblies and write a brand new constitution and whether it is what we really want or not. Some civilian ruling parties in other countries tried to have their parliaments act like a constituent assembly, rejecting the old system altogether and bringing extremely radical changes, but these efforts were mostly Jacobean attempts and most of them backfired or caused great social difficulties or conflicts.

That’s why, Göktürk suggests, instead of planning to amend the whole constitution, we should progress step by step, or rather section by section, and by getting political consensus for each section. This way, the constitution continues to be renewed based on the social atmosphere and needs of the time. Having a constitution that is constantly being modified is better than having the endless debates we have today over an “all or nothing” constitution package. Furthermore, it is the only possible way, Göktürk argues.

Yeni Şafak’s Yasin Aktay, on the other hand, focuses on the country’s main problem, the Kurdish question, and says it stems from the state’s assimilation approach towards Kurds. However, the solution to this problem is not repeating a horrible mistake like killing Turkish state officials, which will only make the problem worse. What should be done is to revise the definition of Turkish citizenship so that it won’t hurt any citizen of any ethnicity in the country. And this solution requires the citizenship article of the Constitution to be amended, if not the whole Constitution at once, Aktay suggests.

Previous articles of the columnist