Constitutional commission to seek reconciliation over controversial articles

August 06, 2012, Monday/ 15:39:00

Opposition parties have rejected the suggestion to leave controversial articles out of the draft constitution, with controversial articles to be discussed by the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission over the coming days.

Having recommenced work on Wednesday after a 20-day recess, the parliamentary Constitutional Reconciliation Commission, which has been carrying out work for the preparation of a new constitution for Turkey, will soon start discussing certain hotly debated articles, such as defining citizenship and whether or not citizens have the right to education in their native language.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) had previously offered to leave these controversial articles out of the new constitution to avoid dragging out the drafting process. However, the Republican People's Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) have rejected this offer, suggesting instead that each party discuss the articles internally and then submit their suggestions, agreed on by the party, to the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission.

The first objection to the AK Party's offer came from the CHP. The party's commission member Atilla Kart told Today's Zaman that they cannot accept a distinction in articles of “those that parties can be reconciled on” and “those that parties cannot be reconciled on.” What is crucial is to reach consensus on the most critical and difficult issues. “It doesn't make sense to prepare a constitution by leaving out critical issues just because they are hard to reach consensus on. Principally there has to be consensus about every article in the constitution.”

He also added that unlike other parties, which prepared about 30 suggestions, the CHP had prepared 54 suggestions on the issue of basic rights and freedoms. The suggestions include the issues of employment, expanding the sphere of freedom of expression, labor agreements and land reforms.

Stating that it was impossible to accept the AK Party's offer to leave controversial articles out of the new constitution, MHP commission member Faruk Bal complained that the AK Party's suggestions for the definition for citizenship and the right of citizens to receive education in their native languages were not sufficiently clear. The MHP pays specific attention to preparing clear and explicit suggestions, he added.

Meanwhile, AK Party commission member Ahmet İyimaya said the definition of citizenship is the paradigm of basic rights.

Remarking that problems can only be solved through discussion, BDP commission member Ayla Akat said that the problem faced by the commission today is a legal one, and so it can only be resolved through legal means. “We are seeing the structure of the commission and also the new constitution as the assurance of social peace in Turkey. A constitution that doesn't canvass issues regarding basic rights and freedoms just because they are difficult to reconcile on cannot be expected to bring social peace. On the contrary, we expect our basic rights and freedoms to be assured by the constitution,” she said.

The first meeting after the commission's return from holiday took place on Wednesday. During the meeting, which lasted for three hours, only one article was discussed.

The commission will continue discussing and drafting articles regarding individual rights and freedoms on Tuesday. Meanwhile, parties will continue discussing suggestions.

As it begins to draft the text of the new constitution, the commission is adhering to a four-phase process. The first phase was to collect and evaluate necessary data, which ended on Dec. 31, 2011, when the commission finished compiling feedback from the public and relevant institutions.

Completion of the draft is scheduled for the end of the year, and it will be opened to public discussion in 2013. Following this step, the finalized proposal will be ready to present to Parliament. The new constitution will be composed of several sections, including basic rights and freedoms, legislation, the executive and judiciary, economic and social provisions, general provisions, basic provisions and temporary provisions.

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