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High hopes for civil constitution post poll in Turkey

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High hopes for civil constitution post poll in Turkey


Turkey having been ruled under constitutions forged in the aftermath of military coups since the 1960’s, Turkey is on the cusp of a new era. Following Sunday’s general election work will begin on drafting a new, civil constitution.

We are joined from Istanbul by prominent Turkish journalist Taha Akyol:

euronews: “Mr Akyol, Why has Turkey waited so long to draft a civil constitution, when Turkey is in accession talks with the EU and is looking to set a democratic example in the region?”

Taha Akyol:

“Creating a new constitution is a long term project. In the 1990s, coalition governments in Turkey struggled to deal with daily troubles. It was difficult for political parties to reach consensus on specific issues. With the emergence of the AKP (Justice and Development Party) the political atmosphere normalised and a willingness to draft a new constitution emerged. Opposition parties also seem to back this.”

euronews: “Prime Minister Erdogan is said to have been considering a presidential system. Do you think the new constitution could usher in a new form of government in Turkey?”

Taha Akyol:

“Prime Minister Erdogan accepted that he had a specific constitutional model in his mind, but said he wouldn’t be inflexible on that idea. I think Erdogan will fight to include the presidential system into the new constitution if he secures yet another clear victory on Sunday. But I hope many MPs within the AKP itself will oppose Erdogan’s idea regarding the presidential system. I liken this plan to serious surgery, which I believe will make Turkey pay a high price. Turkey is accustomed to the parliamentary system and some change can be made to improve this system but the presidential system should not be adopted.”

euronews: “Turkey has attempted to change its constitution many times in the past. But apart from minor amendments it didn’t go any further. What would be the consequences if Turkey failed, once again, to draft a civil constitution?”

Taha Akyol:

“To be honest this question frightens me. Because the current constitution lost its legitimacy particularly after all the discussions about a new constitution and about the military nature of the actual constitution. I still remain concerned that a chaotic political situation could occur if Turkey fails to draft a new constitution. That’s why my desire is to see all major political parties and NGOs come together to create a liberal constitution.”

euronews: “In principle, all major political parties in Turkey promise to draft a new constitution in their manifestos. What about public opinion ? Do people care about it? Or are they really in favour of a new constitution?”

Taha Akyol:

“It’s clear that people feel attracted to a democratic, liberal and a civil constitution which represents all society. But when we start discussing the content of the constitution we face a number of sensitive issues like autonomy for Kurds, Kurdish nationalism, the question of official language and Kemalism, which could cause huge disagreements. But again, I remain optimistic that we will reach a large-scale consensus to draft a civil constitution.”

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