Experts: Only new constitution can erase traces of Sept. 12
Former president and leader of 1980 military coup Kenan Evren is seen with force commanders of the time in this file photo from 1980.
Is it possible to erase the traces of military coups? What must be done to accomplish this? Political analysts from various backgrounds who spoke to Sunday’s Zaman about the Sept. 12 1980 military coup agree that it is hard to erase traces of the coup.
Ahmet İyimaya, chair of the parliamentary Justice Commission and Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Ankara deputy, says: “Sept. 12 was not just a coup; it was an atypical legal regime that destroyed fundamental rights and constitutional structures. The recent constitutional amendments and efforts toward democratization have significantly reduced the impact of the Sept. 12 regime. However, it is difficult to completely eliminate such structures that cause permanent damage.”
Former Minister of Culture and Republican People’s Party (CHP) Secretary-General Fikri Sağlar notes that unless the way we do politics is changed, the traces of the Sept. 12 coup cannot be fully erased.
Professor Mehmet Altan from İstanbul University adds, “Unless we democratize the political setting created by the Sept. 12 regime, we cannot possibly remove the effects of Sept. 12”
Stressing that even a new constitution would fall short of removing the effects of the coup, Altan further says: “We need to exterminate all traces and imprints of the Sept. 12 regime, as well as its mentality and legal reasoning. But political actors have not done so over the last three decades. We cannot possibly erase the traces of Sept. 12 without democratizing the political structure that the regime created. Sept. 12 is the main factor that determines the direction of politics. I think the coup stands as it is. It is alive in its laws and legislation. For instance, you cannot appoint a top military commander without the permission of the chief of General Staff. Political actors should take action to facilitate their own involvement. The Law on Political Parties, the Election Law, the election threshold and parliamentary bylaws are all products of Sept. 12.”
Noting that the coup had a definitive impact even on personal opinions, Sağlar argues that the referendum held to vote for the constitutional amendments on the 30th anniversary of the Sept. 12 coup also preserved the spirit of the coup constitution.
Arguing that Sept. 12 is still alive despite changes in the past three decades, Sağlar says: “The coup regime promoted the mindset that Turkey cannot resolve its problems through democracy. Civilian or military, all influential actors still hold that mentality. As long as that remains, political actors will do the same. The Sept. 12 approach and mentality should be eliminated from the state, civilian politics and the administration in order to restructure the state, but we should change our political approach first. Otherwise, we cannot erase the traces of Sept. 12 by changing the current Constitution. Take the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors [HSYK], which was under the control of the deep state; it is now controlled by the current political administration. And once the CHP comes to power, it will have control over the HSYK. The regime of tutelage still remains, only its name has changed. What really matters is the people’s ability to govern themselves.”
Noting that political institutions should be changed, Sağlar says: “All these can be achieved by creating a new state structure. Only the names have been changed in the current setting. As long as the Sept. 12 Constitution remains and politics maintains this mentality, nothing will really change. In that case, it will not be possible to erase the traces of Sept. 12.”
Cultural and ethical maturity needed
Recalling that it is not entirely impossible to eliminate the traces and remnants of the Sept. 12 regime, the chair of the parliamentary Justice Commission and Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Ankara deputy, Ahmet İyimaya, noted that progress in this regard was made after the constitutional referendum in 2010. He further stressed that the steps taken over the last three decades for the sake of democratization could be considered a partial attempt to remove the Sept. 12 regime from the political stage. Stressing that Turks are now aware of the wisdom of democracy, İyimaya says, “We hope that this will also be backed by cultural and ethical maturity.”
Noting that Turkey had entered a new phase of transparency with the Sept. 12 referendum, İyimaya further says: “Individual applications at the Constitutional Court, the establishment of an office of the ombudsman and work to transform the regime of tutelage, as well as other attempts at normalization, are significant steps that were possible because of the referendum. Of course, there is much more to do. But it should be noted that coup attempts will no longer be handled by the military judiciary. The transparent character of the administration, advanced accountability and questionability criteria have been added to institutional legislation. There is no doubt that the traces of the Sept. 12 regime will be eliminated by the establishment of new institutions and the promulgation of new laws.”