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February 19, 2013, Tuesday

The dilemma of the new constitution

After the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) announced it might bring its own work on a new constitution to Parliament and that it might cooperate with the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) while drafting the new constitution and then take it to a referendum, columnists asserted that the AK Party aims to switch to the presidential system, a system the prime minister has long been advocating, with the new constitution it might draft.

As the majority of columnists do not favor the presidential system, they now find themselves in a deadlock of whether to support the new constitution or not, considering that it will include both the presidential system and democratic rights and reforms for Kurds, which will hopefully largely resolve the country's Kurdish issue.

Bugün's Gülay Göktürk says she has been thinking the same lately: What is she going to do when the AK Party presents a new constitution in which the roots of the Kurdish question are addressed, the articles making reference to the Turkish ethnicity are changed, the definition of citizenship is changed, more rights and freedoms are introduced and yet provisions to switch to the presidential system are included?

“Will I agree to the Turkish-type presidential system, which I find very risky, for the sake of seeing an end to the Kurdish issue, or will I shut my eyes to the Kurdish issue and the problem of terrorism just to prevent switching to the presidential system? I am in a deadlock. I can neither say no to the new constitution, which will shutter the more than 30-year-old policy to assimilate Kurds and which will strengthen local administrations, nor can I say yes to the presidential system, which will abolish the principle of the separation of powers and take the judiciary and legislature under the government's control. Both cannot be undone, after all,” she says.

Yeni Şafak columnist Kürşat Bumin recently mentioned the dilemma Göktürk also touched upon. Bumin said that although he does not support the plan to switch to a presidential system, if the decades-old Kurdish question ends for good as a result, he is ready to say yes to the new constitution. We can try this system for a while, he said.

However, Göktürk does not believe that switching to the presidential system will just amount to gaining experience. There is no turning back, she argues. “Only the public's political will can decide whether to switch to a new system or not and so if the public chooses the presidential system by approving the new constitution, then so be it. But, on the other hand, it is terrifying to think what a leader having the powers provided to him with the new system would be willing to do to not return his power. As you can see, I feel I'm in a tight corner and I don't think it is ethical for a ruling party to put voters in such a difficult position,” the columnist notes.

Vatan's Okay Gönensin also says the probable referendum for the new constitution will continue to be a tough issue for a long while, but on the other hand, he says, even though the BDP supports the new constitution to be drafted by the AK Party, as it will include the democratic rights and freedoms the BDP wants, the two parties' approval won't be enough to take it to a referendum. The two parties will have to seek other parties' support, he says.

Previous articles of the columnist