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February 09, 2012, Thursday

MİT, the judiciary and the new constitution

Every emerging problem is enough to make us understand the need for us civilians to draft a new constitution. Everyone must clearly see that all of the primary problems Turkey is currently discussing point to the need of having a new constitution based on freedoms, coexistence, consensus, democracy, stability, human rights and human dignity.

Let me start with the most recent problem, the one that reared its ugly head between the judiciary and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) concerning a probe into the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK). Everyone is puzzled. The government, the opposition and the media are all agitated. Questions are being raised one after another. What is the primary duty of MİT? Although it is subordinated to the prime minister, MİT, over which generals used to preside in the past, has long been kept outside the civilian domain. Why? Does MİT conduct illegal operations and provocations? What is the link between MİT and JİTEM, a clandestine gendarmerie intelligence unit established in the late 1980s to counter ethnic separatism in the Southeast? Will MİT heads testify? If they do, how will they testify? What are the boundaries between institutions? All of these questions are related to the problem of our Constitution.

Take, for example, the duration of the president’s term. In a referendum, the people agreed that the president should be directly elected by the public, but the term in office of President Abdullah Gül is still being disputed. A bill was passed to make it seven years, but it couldn’t stop the controversy. For instance, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) says they won’t recognize Mr. Gül as president starting in August. They even consider appealing to the Constitutional Court.

The status of jailed deputies in Silivri, the tribunal that is authorized to try the chief of General Staff, whether the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) should be subordinated to the prime minister or the defense minister and the clear-cut boundaries in the separation of powers are all problems that are closely related to the Constitution. Likewise, the secularism-religiosity debate, the headscarf issue on university campuses, whether headscarved women can serve in public positions, the obstacles blocking access of imam-hatip high school and vocational high school graduates to university education, the Alevi issue and the Kurdish issue are all Constitution-related problems.

Although drafting a new constitution is of vital importance, we are still not sure about whether it will happen or not. Isn’t this a pity for Turkey?

As for the most important matter of all, one that is generally ignored, the new president will be elected by the public. This is a first in the republican history of the country. A president elected directly by the public will naturally be stronger than ever. Is this fact taken into consideration in the work on a new constitution? I have personally heard of no such thing.

Yet, we must solve this matter. First of all, we must identify the power and authorities a stronger president, elected by the public, will enjoy.

This is so important that we must know if, under the new constitution, the system of government will be a parliamentary system, a semi-presidential system or a presidential system?

If we are planning to maintain the parliamentary system and make it stronger, then there will be problems with a president who has the same powers and authorities. Under the current Constitution, the president is empowered to preside over the Cabinet or summon the Cabinet for a meeting under his chairmanship if needed. What will happen if a president elected by the public opts to use this power for every Cabinet meeting?

If a presidential or semi-presidential system is called for under the new constitution, then this must be seriously debated. In this regard, the AK Party’s views are very important. Attending the “Siyaset Meydanı Seçim Özel” program on Show TV on May 1, 2011, the prime minister said: “Several models are available. I think these models should be examined. My personal view is that a presidential system will be appropriate for Turkey.” What is his current position on this matter?

Any progress made in drafting a new constitution will mean nothing if the status of the president in the new system is not discussed and clarified. This will also raise questions about the intention behind the work on the new constitution.

No one should forget the fact that everyone is taking the test of sincerity with regard to the country’s democratization process.

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