Çiçek: New constitution is not going to divide society

Çiçek: New constitution is not going to divide society

Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek and TESEV president Can Paker both spoke on the new constitution-making process at a press meeting titled “Study to Watch the New Constitution Process” in İstanbul on Friday. (Photo: Today's Zaman)

March 02, 2012, Friday/ 16:56:00/ YONCA POYRAZ DOĞAN

Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek on Friday said a new constitution is not going to divide society but recognize that other people have rights, too.

“I am here, but there are others, too. This way of thinking keeps society together. In the past, there were some people who said unity in the country will be possible only if individual freedoms are restricted. This understanding was tested, and the result was not good,” he said, speaking at the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV), which introduced its “Study to Watch the New Constitution Process.”

Çiçek, who heads the parliamentary Constitutional Reconciliation Commission, said Turkey needs a constitution that provides guarantees when it comes to freedoms. He said this is because the current Constitution, which was written following the 1980 military coup and includes many anti-democratic elements, was written to make the state, and not individuals in the society, more powerful.

Regarding how to guarantee more rights to individuals, he said: “There are international agreements that Turkey is a part of. The Constitution should be in line with these agreements.”

He elaborated on the issue, saying that universal values are presented in international agreements, such as the European Convention on Human Rights. He said that the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) with regard to Turkey also point to the direction in which Turkey needs to go.

“Yes, the European Union might not be that appealing today, but the EU is still important for Turkey, if you ask me. What is important is the values it represents, not what is happening in one country or another in the EU,” he said.

Çiçek also pointed out that the judiciary has an important role to play, too.

“Turkey's problem is not that it lacks proper laws, but how those laws are implemented,” he added.

Çiçek noted that the four political parties in Parliament have been in agreement about Turkey's need for a new constitution since last year's June 12 elections.

“This means this Parliament can make a new constitution,” he said. “They formed the reconciliation commission with an equal number of representatives from each of those four parties no matter what their representation in Parliament. They also agreed that the constitution will be made with the participation of people.”

He added that the commission members are determined to carry on with the process of constitution making despite some daily political upheavals, pointing out that the commission had its first meeting held in the shadows of a terrorist attack by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that left 24 soldiers dead in the southeastern province of Hakkari on Oct. 19.

After the commission collects the views of individuals and institutions in the process, Çiçek said a draft text will be prepared as of May 1 after which the opinion of Parliament and the public on the draft text will be taken again. As a final step, Çiçek said the necessary changes will be made to the draft text and presented to Parliament for approval and then to a public referendum.

Levent Köker, a constitutional professor who is a consultant for TESEV's study, also stressed at the same meeting that it is important to stress first the points of agreement and leave the points of disagreement aside until the end of the process nears.

In order to watch all of this process in Parliament and a number of other public and institutional processes, TESEV announced that it has established the website:

“This site will follow who did what -- political parties, civil society and media -- in regards to making the country's new constitution,” said Can Paker, chairman of the board of directors at TESEV.

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