As the election campaign winds down in Turkey, euronews spoke to some of the main figures involved in Sunday’s historic poll.
The election is not expected to bring about a change of government but the size of the ruling AK Party’s likely win is all important as that will determine how a civil constitution is drafted.
euronews spoke to deputy prime minister Bulent Arınç.
euronews: “After decades, Turkey is preparing to draft a civil constitution. This makes the election even more important. What would your primary point be in terms of this?”
“We tried to write a constitution after the previous election in 2007. But we were prevented from doing so. But a series of constitutional amendments that we adopted in parliament in 2010 was put to a referendum, which was supported by the majority.
“After that, we realised we needed a new constitution and could not carry on with the current one. We made it clear right after the referendum last year. At that time, we had called on everyone to come together to write a democratic constitution. The new constitution will be transparent and brief with fewer articles.
“So far there has been a statist/autocratic constitution produced, in effect, by the elite in Turkey. We will write a people-oriented one now. It will be free from any ideology and will address all people, regardless of their religion and ethnicity.”
euronews: “You talk about a plural constitution. What would the consequences be if the government fails to deliver?”
“This is not just our problem. We think that, as our democracy improves, we should get rid of this current constitution dating from the military coup. We are not willing to do it alone. We will do our best to reach a consensus on the issue. This process may take one or two years but at the end we will need 330 votes to at least put it to a referendum. As a country that is in negotiations with the EU over full membership, we should not advocate a constitution that was forged by the military.”
euronews: “Turkey’s negotiation process with the EU has stalled, with sceptical France and Germany opposing its membership. What steps will you take to accelerate the process?”
“In terms of the EU process we have fulfilled everything that we have been told to do. It is not true that we have been slow. In the EU of 27 members, only France and Germany oppose our membership and we are battling against that. Turkey has no problem with the other 25 members. They support our membership bid.
“Domestic politics in France and Germany play an important role in their opposition to Turkish membership. And they still insist on maintaining the status quo as they believe that Turkey will seek to increase its influence if it becomes a full member. We need to wait to see political developments in those countries.”
The main opposition, the Republican People’s Party, is expected to increase its share of the vote. Leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu criticised the AK Party over its foreign policy.
euronews: “What are your thoughts about constitutional reform immediately after the election?”
“We have a number of plans regarding constitutional reform. We aim to make universities autonomous and limit the immunity of members of Parliament. EU norms will be adopted. Special authorised courts will be stripped of their privileges. We value the freedom of the press and believe the media must be free and independent. Pressure on the media must be reduced.
“There are also objectives regarding state ministers standing trial. That should also be in the line with EU legislation. Many articles in the current constitution were included in September 1980 after military intervention. These articles should be removed from the constitution and liberal ones should be drawn up.”
euronews: “Over the last couple of years Turkey has dragged its feet over the EU membership bid. What do you say about that?”
“We see the EU process as a way to modernisation. Our party’s second leader, Ismet Inonu, started the EU process by making an agreement with the club in 1963. We want this process to be accelerated and lead to full membership. The process may take a long time but it is clear that we want to adopt the EU’s reforms.”
euronews: “In terms of foreign policy, Turkey is said to have been increasingly visible on the world stage. Do you agree?”
“The reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, the two rival Palestinian groups, signed in Egypt demonstrated that Turkey’s influence, both in the region and on the world stage, didn’t expand but on the contrary declined.
“Relations with Israel have deteriorated. The government attempted to normalise relations with Armenia but then took a step back, and Turkey drifted away from the West. Turkish foreign policy has caused concerns around the world with speculation that its attention has shifted away.”