Parliamentary Commission to set road map for adoption of new charter



The reconciliation commission set up in Parliament for drafting a new constitution in Turkey is set to lay the roadmap in its first meeting to be held this week.

The commission, represented by an equal number of members from each party represented in Parliament, will set the agenda, process and topics for the new constitution. The commission will try to work out differences in a series of meetings before sending the draft to the Parliamentary Constitutional Commission, which, by law, is the main institution to make changes to the constitution. Then the draft will be discussed on the floor and voted upon.
All the parties will focus on freedoms, fundamental human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the new constitution, though differences remain in their approach to a number of issues including citizenship, language and the character of the Turkish state. Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek stated on Monday that the commission will have its first meeting on Thursday. Experts argue that the commission would do better if it would just reach an understanding on the process with which they will reach the ultimate goal of adopting a brand new constitution. According to Mithat Sancar, a professor at the Ankara University Faculty of Law, the commission should mainly focus on how to include all segments of the society in the constitutional process. He expressed his concern, however, that the current Parliament was created with a 10 percent election threshold and that raised the question of Parliament’s capability to adequately represent society. But he told Today’s Zaman this deficiency could possibly be overcome by working with civil society organizations, workers’ unions and people from universities during the preparation process.
The current Parliament is the most representative Parliament Turkey has had in the last decade, with 95 percent of the electorate represented in Parliament. Another analyst, Tarhan Erdem, a famous figure among pollsters, also believes that when the commission thinks it needs experts’ opinions it can easily consult and invite them to participate in their sessions.

Erdem told Today’s Zaman that the person who heads the commission should not be a person whose actions would be decisive in a tie during a session, but a person in the capacity of chairman who simply heads a particular session.

He also warned that the party representatives on the commission should not act as their party leader’s envoy and speak for themselves when need be. That’s why the openings between sessions of the commissions should be kept small, so as to not give the impression that the representatives are simply relaying what they are told by their leaders, Erdem says.

Atilla Kart from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) is also hopeful about the process. Kart told Today’s Zaman he believes that the fact that only members from political parties are represented in the commission should not be a cause for worry. “It doesn’t mean that the commission will not be in contact with other layers of the society,” he says, adding, “Our main responsibility is to contribute to the preparation of a constitution that will satisfy all sectors of the society, fit for international norms.”

Sami Selçuk, former head of the Supreme Court of Appeals and a professor at the Bilkent University Faculty of Law, finds the formation of a reconciliation commission a late, but appropriate step. He disagrees, however, with the notion that Parliament has a mandate to adopt the new constitution. Selçuk claimed that because of the present elections law and political parties law, the national will was not fully represented in Parliament.

He argued that because of the high election threshold, some voters cast their votes for major parties even though their hearts were in the smaller parties. Noting that deputies were nominated by party leaders, he described current deputies as party leaders’ “appointed ones.”

Selçuk believes that a Parliament that represents all sectors of society should be formed first and then the reconciliation commission should be formed from such a Parliament. “Otherwise, the will of the people will not be reflected in the new agreement and the legitimacy of the constitution will always be questioned,” he told Today’s Zaman.

The reconciliation commission comprises Mehmet Ali ?ahin, Mustafa ?entop and Ahmet ?yimaya from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Atilla Kart, Süheyl Batum and R?za Türmen from the main opposition CHP and Faruk Bal, Tunca Toskay and Oktay Öztürk from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). There was no announcement as to who would represent the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in the commission when Today’s Zaman went to print.

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