ERGUN BABAHAN

The new constitution and a warning to the AK Party

During a ceremony held to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Constitutional »»

During a ceremony held to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Constitutional Court, President Abdullah Gül delivered a speech containing some passages that deserve to be highlighted.

First of all, Gül touched on the shameful aspect of the fact that Turkey is still being governed by a constitution that was drafted during a military dictatorship. Many restrictive and prohibitory provisions of this coup Constitution have been amended so for, but its fascist spirit and institutions are still alive and kicking.

That almost all of these institutions are now being controlled by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) does not eliminate the extremely repressive and regulatory identity of the coup Constitution.

Many institutions, particularly the Higher Education Board (YÖK), should be adapted to our time or abolished altogether.

In other words, it is high time that we get rid of this archaic structure.

Yet Gül's warnings that we should lend an ear to are more about how the new constitution is being draft and what its content should be.

The overwhelming majority of society agrees that a new constitution should be drafted and that this constitution should be democratic.

Being a major founding member of the AK Party, the president issued a serious warning to his former colleagues and pointed out that they should avoid playing the victimized party in this process.

This is the AK Party's third term in office, and the current political atmosphere implies it will very likely be elected to office for a fourth time.

Such a setting is precious and important in terms of political power and economic development, but it certainly poses certain problems to competition between diverse ideas and the ruling party's feeling itself challenged.

This picture may encourage the AK Party management to weaken its efforts to reach a consensus with other parties and opt for a majority-based governance method.

The signs of such a government style came in some legal arrangements.

However, we also saw how Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek secured a consensus among parliamentary parties for the release of the deputies in jail.

In this regard, it is a chance that Çiçek also presides over the commission that is working on the drafting of the new constitution. Indeed, as Gül underlines, a constitution that is based on today's majority will be the target of some groups and, as is the case with the 1960 constitution, these groups will try to abolish it as soon as possible.

However, Turkey needs to reach an agreement on a text that will secure ethnic and sectarian consensus and that will offer freedom to conservatives and secularists alike.

Developments indicate that we are nearing a turning point with regard to a solution to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) issue.

But, solving the PKK issue will not mean settlement of the Kurdish issue. An unarmed Kurdish movement is more likely to create bigger problems for Ankara as efforts to repress an unarmed movement will not earn support or tolerance from the international community, particularly Western countries.

By giving us a new definition of citizenship and attaching importance to decentralization, this new text will play a key role in making Turkey be self-confident in the settlement of the Kurdish issue and in making plans for the future.

This constitution is of critical importance for social peace. Just like its role in solving the Kurdish issue, it may serve to alleviate the concerns of secular groups and reduce the tension between secular and conservative groups.

For this sake, we should hearken to President Gül's warnings.

2012-04-27

Columnists

Columnist:: ERGUN BABAHAN