Can 2012 be year of new constitution?

On the last day of the year, Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal K?l?çdaro?lu evaluated the year 2011 to the press at Van Ferit Melen Airport. (Photo: AA)
The June 12 election was certainly the most important event of 2011. Following this election, the parties in Parliament, which represent nearly 95 percent of the people, established a Constitutional Reconciliation Commission, an important step indeed.

If the commission can complete its work successfully, this will be one of the most important legislative acts made not only in 2011 but in this century, as the commission’s method is being applied to constitution making for the first time in Turkey. Turkey’s experience with constitutions exceeds 100 years, but this is the first time that the people themselves are preparing the country’s constitution.
Getting to this point in making a new and civilian constitution has taken almost 100 years, and this alone evidences the difficulty of making a civilian constitution. This difficulty creates concerns and doubts about it. The question that reflects the concerns and hopes is “Can 2012 be the year of the new constitution?”

The second question highlights the concerns: Is the commission working to show how impossible of a task this is?

Parliament went into recess after budget negotiations, but the commission continued to work hard. While the sub-commissions hold interviews with NGOs and citizens who would like to express their opinions on the new constitution, commission chairman and Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek, and four commission members from political parties represented in Parliament visit professional organizations and trade unions to brief them on the commission’s works.

Çiçek organized a working breakfast for the Ankara representatives of media outlets. This meeting was important to show the people’s concerns about the new constitution. Both the questions Çiçek was asked during the meeting and news reports about this meeting clearly show this. Journalists who attended this meeting expressed their concerns more clearly. The prevailing opinion among journalists is that the four parties which form the commission cannot agree on a common text. However, when one speaks with the representatives of the parties in Parliament, the picture is not so pessimistic.

In response to concerns that the commission’s work is proceeding too slowly, a commission member said: “We could have prepared a constitution within two months. But this is the first time we are making a new constitution with the active participation of the whole nation. Both the quality and quantity of this historical opportunity are important. If we shorten the time, we will have a smaller opportunity. In parallel with the size of the opportunity, we need one year.”

The new constitution will be prepared by neither elitist groups nor political parties or the commission. The nation will be the architect of the new constitution. This is why the commission includes the nation in the drafting process through organizing meetings with NGOs and allowing people to express their views via email. The commission has received many interesting requests.

What are the commission’s red lines? Commission members say the demands of the nation will outline the basic structure of the new constitution. Discussing the details before shaping the basic structure would freeze the process. At this point, we need to promote parts we agree on and delay discussing red lines.

From the outside it may look like a waste of time, but when we speak with members of the commission, we can say that the commission is carrying out the process with calmness and wisdom.

So, will 2012 be the year of the new constitution? Although the details point to the opposite, the big picture looks very optimistic.

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