MHP stands by "red lines" on new constitution
Clashing views between MHP and BDP, and between the ruling AKP and other parties, has many worried over the trajectory of the constitutional drafting process.
By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye -- 21/05/12
After a six-month preparatory process, the 12 members of the Constitutional Reconciliation Committee (CRC) started to draft a new civilian constitution on May 1st. This historic parliamentary committee is composed of three deputies from each elected party -- AKP, CHP, MHP and BDP.
The far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) favours a new civilian constitution, but has "red lines" around the first three inviolable articles of the current constitution: preservation of the unitary state model, territorial integrity and Turkish as the official language and national identity.
"These are values that must be installed in the constitution … The values that carried the will and the philosophy of the foundation of our Republic," Oktay Vural, MHP deputy chairman and parliamentary group chairman, told SES Türkiye.
The MHP views the need for an independent and impartial judiciary as one of the country's top priorities. The party is against the establishment of a presidential system of government and favours strengthening the parliamentary system.
"Of course, at this point some of the president's powers must be limited. Our hope is [to achieve such] a democratic parliamentary system that might eliminate conflicts when the president uses his authority," he said.
For some experts, such as Professor Cenap Cakmak from the Osmangazi University in Eskisehir, the controversy around the idea of creating a presidential system is stalling the constitution-building process.
The ruling AKP government seems to favour a presidential system, as they would likely win the position and the power it implies, while opposition parties like the MHP stand little chance to take the presidency and their influence in parliament would be reduced.
"There is no clarity on what the next steps will be because of the ongoing disagreements and the government's reluctance to take swift action on the matter," Cakmak told SES Türkiye.
"The MHP accuses the ruling party of acting unilaterally and attempting to disrupt the centralised state structure," Cakmak added.
For Vural, there is no need to change the entire system, but rather the existing system needs to be made to work.
"I hope all the parties will consider Turkey and promote a constitutional amendment based on the common values, to run democracy in this country," he said.
While the politicians are trying to find room for consensus, demands for more rights and greater self-rule from minorities and ethnic groups are also challenging long-held principles of national unity under a centralised government.
Osman Dogru, a professor at Marmara University's Faculty of Law, told SES Türkiye the controversy around ethnic minorities -- particularly the Kurds -- may not only threaten the constitutional drafting process, but also could undermine Turkey's stability.
"Topics such as how much cultural autonomy to allow the Kurds and what powers the presidency should have still haven't actively come to the centre of the political discussions. But as different voices compete, this process could get bogged down at any time," he said.
"[The months ahead] especially will demonstrate whether the parties are ready to produce genuine compromise and are capable of addressing Turkey's thorny issues."
Vural doesn't think that the new constitution should have any space for ethnic rights.
"The constitution should be written on the basis of common values, not ethnic identity," he said, adding there is no problem "for our people to live with all their differences along the lines of Turkish national identity."
"If you make a constitution based on ethnic identities, then power sharing also is needed, such as the one in Iraq," he warned.
Cakmak concludes that it seems like there are "certainly huge differences between the parties that cannot be accommodated or settled smoothly" during the constitution drafting process.
"There are clashing views, say, between the MHP and the BDP, or in general, between the ruling party and the opposition parties," he added.
If consensus on the constitution breaks down in the CRC, the AKP may push the constitution through by means of a referendum.