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March 30, 2011, Wednesday

TÜSİAD’s U-turn

In a move that surprised and disappointed many, the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD), which revealed its draft constitution last week that included radical proposals, made a U-turn, distancing itself from what was known as its draft constitution.

In a statement it released on Sunday, TÜSİAD said the draft constitution proposed by a group of academics and announced by the association last week does not reflect the opinions of TÜSİAD but those of the academics. It also underlined that the association is against a proposal in the draft constitution suggesting the amendment of the first three unchangeable articles.

In addition to criticism, TÜSİAD received much appreciation from various segments of the public for preparing a pro-freedom constitution which included proposals such as removal from the Constitution of all expressions that evoke racism or nationalism, the elimination of the use of the word “Turkishness” when defining citizenship, the removal of the religion box from IDs and putting the General Staff under the control of the Ministry of Defense, among others. The reason behind its change of mind remains a subject of debate.

Milliyet’s Derya Sazak is very disappointed with TÜSİAD’s backpedalling from its draft constitution and wonders what changed over the past several days to prompt the institution to take a step backward. “The draft constitution revealed by TÜSİAD last week was very advanced and not expected from TÜSİAD,” says Sazak. He thinks the draft constitution was somewhat of an answer to the government’s critical remarks about TÜSİAD last year as the institution fell short of supporting a government-sponsored constitutional reform package, which was approved in a referendum last year.

Sazak thinks TÜSİAD member Cem Boyner, who is also the husband of TÜSİAD President Ümit Boyner, knew from the very beginning that the institution would not be able to stand by the draft constitution as he said: “The freedom, honor and rights of people are more important than the division of the country. If you won’t be able to stay by it, let’s not exhaust the academics any further.” Sazak says the Sunday statement effectively served to inform us that TÜSİAD has shelved the draft constitution it prepared.

“TÜSİAD alienated itself from its draft constitution due to heavy criticism. The text that was released does not reflect the views of TÜSİAD, it said, using the 22 academics who prepared the draft as scapegoats,” Sabah’s Şeref Oğuz says with regret. He wonders about the reasons that made TÜSİAD take a step back on the draft constitution.

“We don’t understand whether Nationalist Movement Party [MHP] leader Devlet Bahçeli’s call to boycott goods sold by the Boyner family or threats directed at patriotic businessmen with common sense, asking them to distance themselves from TÜSİAD, played a role,” he says.

Considering the fact that the strongest criticism came from the MHP, Oğuz thinks it is most likely that internal opposition led TÜSİAD to make a U-turn.

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