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Constitutional referendum: Turkey is abandoning parliamentary democracy

With this proposal to amend the Turkish constitution, the parliament would be dismissed and sovereignty given to a single person. Instead of legislation, the state would be arbitrarily ruled by decrees, which are not subject to ratification.

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Constitutional referendum: Turkey is abandoning parliamentary democracy

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By Haluk Pekşen, member (Republican People’s Party ) of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey

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"With this proposal to amend the Turkish constitution, the parliament would be dismissed and sovereignty given to a single person."

Haluk Pekşen Member of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey

The process that brought Turkey to today’s constitutional referendum began in 2007. This project has significant implications for internal and external politics.

In the foreign policy crises of Turkey with Libya, Israel, Egypt, Iran, Russia, USA, Syria, Germany and finally the Netherlands, the regulations stipulated in international law were easily abandoned and the law of a party was imposed instead of international law.

All foreign policy experts are very familiar with two fundamental issues in foreign policy; that external politics cannot be made through the media and that the interests of the country are above all interests in foreign policy.

From this point of view, it is seen that in the foreign policy crises that started with Libya and ended with the Netherlands, Turkey abandoned the peaceful foreign policy approach and made AKP’s sect-based ideology- foreign policy. Such a foreign policy understanding conflicts with the interests of Turkey on the one hand, and it does not find acceptance as a decent attitude in international law on the other hand.

The most worrying thing about this with regards to public opinion and the international community is that the Republic of Turkey, which is a model for Muslim countries with its democratic parliamentary regime, is unfortunately shifting away from this position as a result of the policies of the AKP government.

When we look at the ranking of the countries that see the highest levels of emmigration in the world, it is seen that the first five countries are Muslim countries, with Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia being the first three. People who migrate from Muslim countries due to regime pressures, internal confusion and economic problems do not simply choose rich countries as their new homes. If they did, they would have migrated to Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. However, on the contrary, when we look at the wave of migration, Germany and European countries are the first with USA and Canada following them.

Turkey’s careful analysis of all these developments and the creation of a lasting solution to the problems can only come about through a great deal of national reconciliation. Although Turkey urgently needs such a national consensus, the constitutional amendment proposed by the political authorities to the referendum, on the contrary, contains regulations that will trigger greater conflicts and division.

As seen in the crisis with the Netherlands, if Turkey gets embroiled in such crises, serious problems will arise with the European Union too. As the domestic political problems that Turkey is experiencing are so important as to affect Europe, today’s constitutional referendum debates in Turkey are not only an internal issue for Turkey. It is equally a legitimacy problem inside Turkey, it is also important for the enforcement of international law in the international community.

It is a state’s most important obligation to provide safety for its citizens. Trust in the law, the public, public order, and even trust in the future, are all the essential conditions for the basic human right to plan the future.

However, with this proposal to amend the Turkish constitution, the parliament would be dismissed and sovereignty given to a single person. Instead of legislation, the state would be arbitrarily ruled by decrees, which are not subject to ratification.

In this respect, as a result of this constitutional referendum, Turkey’s transition to a one-man regime that is constantly in conflict with both the domestic and international rule of law will bring serious problems both inside and outside the country. If we do not say “No” in the referendum, our compatriots living in Europe and our citizens in Turkey should be prepared to face a new migration wave with lasting and severe effects.

I believe that Turkey will achieve a strong parliamentary system based on human rights, participatory and pluralistic democracy, with a great deal of common sense and common understanding.

In the history of the ninety-five-year Republican period, although the democratic parliamentary system was occasionally threatened by the party, state and internal conflicts, the army almost functioned as the system’s caretaker. This has prevented civil society from developing the ability to build democratic gains. Now for the first time, the army has been disabled and civil society has entered into a struggle to achieve a democratic, secular, social legal state. Indeed, for the first time since the French Revolution of 1789, a country can gain a democratic parliamentary system with a big civil society success. We hope and anticipate that Turkey will survive this process, without being dragged into an unfortunate adventure, by saying a strong ‘NO’ in the constitutional referendum.

By Haluk Pekşen, member (Republican People’s Party) of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey

A ballot paper on the constitutional referendum for Turkish voters living in Switzerland is pictured at the Turkish consulate in Geneva, Switzerland March 29, 2017.

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