Confident that an overwhelming majority will vote “yes” on the upcoming referendum, İyimaya said that despite almost all political circles emphasizing the need for a constitution drafted by the people -- and not by a junta as with the current Constitution -- this has not happened for more than a century.
“Our need for a constitution by the people has been in place for nearly 150 years. All political parties, during the drafting process of the 1982 Constitution, asked for a constitution that responds to societal demands. Civil society groups voiced this. I don’t see any possibility for the rejection of the constitutional amendment package. Once the package is accepted, the need for a brand new constitution that responds to the needs of society will increase. The election campaigns in 2011 will be conducted along the axis of a new constitution. All parties will bring forward their own suggestions for a constitution. Those who stand against each other today will come together that day ... because this demand for change is one that cannot be resisted,” he said.
According to parliamentary Justice Commission head Ahmet İyimaya, an overwhelming majority will vote ‘yes’ in the upcoming referendum for the planned amendments to the Constitution. He said that once the reform package is accepted, the need for a brand new constitution that responds to the needs of society will increase
Asked what would happen if the constitutional reforms are rejected in the upcoming referendum, İyimaya said this was not possible, adding, “You can’t make a forecast based on something that has zero chance of happening.”
The constitutional amendment package, which will strengthen democracy with more freedoms, is actually restructuring the state, he said, noting that society is far ahead of politicians in understanding this. He argued that although society is ready for reform, centers of resistance that do not want to let go of the “custodial powers” they have over the country are now showing themselves.
Bureaucracy is discovering democracy
İyimaya, an Ankara deputy for the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), said attempts by bureaucratic institutions to impose their own will and shape legislation produced by Parliament are now a thing of the past. “What we experienced in August and the ongoing trials could be the subject of volumes of doctoral theses on democratization. For one thing, from now on, there will never be force from the bureaucracy in Turkey saying, ‘This law should be like this, that law should be like that.’ The bureaucracy is slowly discovering Turkey, because the custodial regime produced by the bureaucracy is actually reducing its own efficiency. From now on everyone will mind their own business,” he argued.
According to İyimaya, when draft laws were submitted to Parliament in the past, bureaucratic agencies would attempt to impose changes on them. He said these agencies included the National Security Council (MGK) and the military. “At one time in the past, these also came from chief prosecutors. But that era has ended. We will, of course, make use of the bureaucracy and its experience, but there will be no more imposition. We will do here what universal standards and needs dictate. And the bureaucracy will know its limits and respect democracy.”
İyimaya, who was head of the Constitutional Commission during the process leading up to Turkey’s 1997 “postmodern coup,” said he has participated in three different projects in Parliament to change the constitution and that current conditions are much freer for such work. “The psychology of that era and the psychology of the current times are very different. You wouldn’t be able to make this change 10 years ago. You couldn’t have made it five years ago. either.”
He said transparency and pluralism in communication are the most important elements in the new era. Thanks to these two factors, he emphasized, the shadowy powers behind mass demonstrations and unsolved killings “in the name of the state” have now come out. He said the layers of democracy are getting richer, adding, “It is being seen how archaic the solutions and the formulas that the bureaucracy produced have been.”
Civilian dictatorship not possible
In earlier years, İyimaya noted, even a fragment of the changes in the upcoming package would have provoked a military coup or communiqué. He said in the past eight years of being in power the AK Party has made courageous democratic transformations. He dismissed claims as insane and slanderous that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is establishing a civilian dictatorship. “If today a military intervention is not a risk, if society has reached this level of maturity, I do not know how a civilian dictatorship can be possible. What civilian can form a dictatorship if the military can’t? Such criticism is comical with all this transparency and elections every four years.”
İyimaya emphasized that Turkey’s recent history is painfully rich in terms of military interventions in comparison with the rest of the world and noted that the military judiciary has always been used as a manipulative tool by coup leaders in the past. He pointed out that the constitutional amendment package includes a change to Article 145 of the Constitution that will restrict the military judiciary. He also said the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) was ready to accept this change. The transparency that Turkey gained during the process of the trial against Ergenekon, a criminal network suspected of plotting to overthrow the government, has been very educational.
YAŞ, HSYK rulings should be reviewed retroactively
İyimaya explained that earlier decisions of the Supreme Military Council (YAŞ), the body that determines the promotions and dismissals of military officers, and the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), which oversees the promotions of judges and prosecutors, should be retroactively subject to legal appeal, as the constitutional amendment package opens the decisions of these two bodies up to judicial review -- something that did not exist before. He said now individuals such as former prosecutor Ferhat Sarıkaya, who was disbarred by the HSYK after he indicted a former military chief, might be able to appeal against the rulings that made them lose their jobs and even professions and continue through to the end of the appeals process all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights.