Constitutional Reconciliation Commission extends its calendar

June 03, 2012, Sunday/ 12:40:00/ ALİ ASLAN KILIÇ

The Constitutional Reconciliation Commission leaves some tense times in its wake, having drawn up a draft of the new document, putting at the forefront the section titled “Fundamental Rights and Freedoms” while also sketching out the various sub-sections for the constitution.

 While compromise was achieved in the commission with regards to the sections concerning human dignity, the same could not be said for the section titled “Equality.” The tension experienced in the committee caused concern that in fact the commission and its work might grind to a halt, as party leaders accused one another of trying to find reasons to move away from the negotiating table.

The three-week-long debates at committee level finally concluded with a meeting that took place on Wednesday. It was finally decided to skip the “Equality” section of the draft which had provoked so much disagreement, and a decision was made to start discussing the “Right to Life” section.

The tension that arose during debates over the “Equality” section of the drafting of the constitution, however, put the spotlight on a certain reality: That the one year originally given to the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission will in fact not be sufficient for the completion of the draft of the new Constitution.

The original plans set in motion for the commission were that the period between Jan. 1-April 30 was to be used for the gathering of data and views; the months from May to August were to see the draft of the constitution completed; and September and October was to be when the final document was to be put together, following, of course, the necessary debates and analyses.

However, all of the members of the commission, made up of the four main parties represented in the Turkish Parliament, stress that it is now clear that in fact one year will not be enough time to write the draft.

In regards to the slower-than-anticipated process, Justice and Development Party (AK Party) commission member Ahmet İyimaya notes, “We are doing a project in which words and concepts are being very carefully considered, and thus there should really be no speculation as to the timing of this all.” As for CHP commission member Atilla Kart, he says: “There were some very long-winded arguments in regards to the section on equality. We are talking about an extremely careful project, one being carried out with an absolute sense of responsibility and attention to detail. ... It would be quite wrong to try and say, for instance ‘We will finish up the section of rights and freedoms on this date, and the final document on this date’.” Kart underscored that not only was the commission not placing time constraints on its work but that time constraints coming from outside the commission would also not be desirable.

At the time that the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission was originally formed, it had been noted that in fact one year would be insufficient to carry out the necessary work, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had insisted that six months would be enough.

Out of a total of 41 sections, only two have so far been discussed

The commission, which first approached the writing of the draft with the section titled “Fundamental Rights and Freedoms,” divided the principles of this section into three parts: “Personal Rights and Freedoms,” “Political Rights and Freedoms” and “Social and Economic Rights.”

Of the 41 sub-sections to these basic sections, 37 have achieved complete compromise among commission members. The remaining four sub-sections are to be taken up again at a later date.

In the meantime, commission meetings regarding two of the sections of the draft constitution, “Human Honor and Dignity” and “Equality,” took up four weeks of debate time, mostly due to discussions regarding the inclusion of sexual preference in defining equality.

The commission, which began meetings on the “Right to Life” section on Friday, faces the following sub-sections in the coming weeks: children’s rights, torture, laws on mistreatment of others, laws on forced labor, personal freedom and safety, the right to privacy, the protection of personal information and data, the inviolability of private residence, freedom of communication, freedom of settlement, freedom to travel, freedom of religion and belief, freedom of thought and expression, the right to a fair trial, essential aspects of crime and punishment, the right to vote and be elected, the right to social security, the right to housing, the right to join unions, the right to conduct collective bargaining and the right to strike.

There are six lower commissions that are undertaking the drafting of the constitution in the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission. The frequency with which the commission meets, of course, affects the actual work schedule of the group. While the AK Party called for the commission to meet three consecutive days a week, the CHP insisted this would be too difficult for members, calling instead for meetings once a week.

In the end, it was decided that the commission would meet two days a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays.

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