As efforts to prepare Turkey's new constitution continue, a new era will commence on May 1 as the public consultation period ends and the drafting process begins. Cemil Çiçek, head of the parliamentary Constitutional Reconciliation Commission, said on Monday that on Thursday, May 3, the commission will hold a meeting with consultants appointed by the political parties while on Friday it will start drafting the constitution.
For the past six months the commission, which started its mission on Oct. 19 of last year, has listened to views from civil society platforms, including 14 political parties, 21 universities, 39 professional organizations and unions and 79 associations and foundations. Meanwhile, 25,440 people shared their views about the new constitution via the committee's official website.
The commission includes three members of each of the four parties represented in Parliament. Regardless of the distribution of the seats in Parliament, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) have equal representation on the commission.
Turkey’s 1982 Constitution, which replaced the earlier constitution of 1961, has been amended 17 times with changes to its 113 articles. The last modification took place in September 2010 following the result of a referendum that gained 58 percent approval. This Constitution includes many anti-democratic elements and was written to make the state more powerful, rather than individuals.
Çiçek said that even though the official process for taking suggestions for the new constitution has ended, those who would like to submit views will still be able to do so. “Everybody can express their views. Expressing different views does not mean there is a fight between groups. There will be deliberations, not fighting,” he said.
Çiçek also spoke about the arrested deputies, saying that it is hard to find a solution to the problem because there are “many factors and actors” involved. “There are difficulties because each case is different. It will not help to give false hopes at this point,” he said.
Recently, political parties represented in Parliament have reached a compromise on a legal solution to the issue of jailed deputies who are not allowed to participate in Parliament despite having been elected in the June 12, 2011 elections.
In a statement last week, Çiçek’s office said it met with the parliamentary group deputy chairmen of the CHP, the MHP and the BDP. All of these opposition parties have deputies currently in jail, having not been released despite their election to Parliament in last year’s general elections.
“We agreed during the meeting that the issue would be solved on a legal basis without being manipulated politically and in a way in which the four parties will be in agreement,” the statement said.
Çiçek said the agreement was presented to the administration of the ruling AK Party.
Jailed CHP deputies Mustafa Balbay and Mehmet Haberal as well as the MHP’s Engin Alan face coup charges. Six jailed BDP deputies face charges of membership in the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that prosecutors say includes the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
It is currently the courts’ prerogative not to release individuals elected to Parliament if they have been charged with terrorism-related crimes. The BDP is strictly against any arrest or detention of lawmakers.