AK Party continues to consult political parties on constitution

Deputy Chairman Ömer Çelik, leading the AK Party team on its tour to boost support for a new constitution, called the talks with opposition parties very positive.

September 28, 2011, Wednesday/ 16:46:00

A delegation from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) continues its tours of opposition parties to make a sales pitch for the drafting of a new constitution on the eve of the new legislative session, set to open on Saturday.

The five-member AK Party team led by Deputy Chairman Ömer Çelik met with the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) yesterday and is meeting with the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) today. During the press briefing after an hour-long meeting with the MHP leadership, Çelik said the talks were very positive, without giving any details on the substance of the meeting.

Çelik confirmed that the initiative on the new constitution will be headed by Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek rather than the government. Recalling that all political parties campaigned on the platform of a new constitution to replace the military-era one during the pre-election period, Çelik said, “The public has high expectations from all responsible political parties to deliver a new constitution.” Çelik also stated that the AK Party is calling on civic public groups and nongovernmental organizations to seek their input on the constitution.

During an AK Party meeting of provincial party heads, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also said he values these tours to keep the momentum going on the constitution. “We have no preconditions. The only thing we want is to have the Reconciliation Commission in Parliament set up right away without any bias or prejudice,” he said, stressing that he expects all stakeholders in society to contribute to the process.

Erdoğan underlined that all parties would send an equal number of representatives to this commission. “Of course each political party will have their own preparations. We [the AK Party] are also doing our homework. We will discuss these in the commission,” he explained, adding that his door is open to everybody who has something to say on the new constitution.

The AK Party is expected to meet with the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) as well after the BDP declared yesterday that it will end its boycott and take the oath in Parliament. The BDP was not sent a letter of invitation from the AK Party because BDP deputies had not yet taken the oath of office on the floor yet.

During a press briefing after a Cabinet meeting on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Bülent Arınç said the BDP is not yet represented in Parliament. “To be able to participate in legislative proceedings, deputies must take the oath. I do not believe an invitation letter was drafted for the BDP as it is not in Parliament. If its deputies take the oath after Oct. 1, the AK Party will attempt to visit the BDP to have talks,” he said.

Analysts see the tours made by the AK Party delegation as an attempt to convey an important message to Turkish public opinion on the sincerity of the governing party in trying to deliver what it promised to voters during its election campaign earlier this year. AK Party officials argue that they will not impose any draft on other parties but will come to the table with an open mind and expect others to do the same.

Long-held expectations for a new civilian constitution rose more than ever following the June 12 parliamentary elections. All of the parties represented in Parliament vowed to draft a new constitution to replace the existing one, which was drafted under martial law after the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup and has long been criticized for failing to respond to today's needs for broader rights and freedoms. The ruling party had also promised to make a new constitution after its election victory.

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