BDP excluded from consensus on official language

29 August 2013 /ALİ ASLAN KILIÇ, ANKARA – Zaman – Members from three political parties of the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission, which is working to draft a new constitution for the country, on Wednesday agreed on a constitutional article that defines Turkey’s official language as Turkish, while an objection from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) has been ignored.

Since the start of this week, the commission has been discussing the preamble of the constitution. The third article, which is about the integrity of the state, its official language, flag, national anthem and capital, began to be discussed by the commission members on Tuesday. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) agreed to keep Turkey’s official language as Turkish. In line with an agreement the parties had previously made, this article was written in green to indicate that a consensus has been reached on it. Articles on which the parties have not reached an agreement are written in red.

The consensus on the article has been possible thanks to the AK Party removing its reservations about referring to Turkish as an official language of the country. The BDP is against the reference of Turkish as the official language, claiming that a state cannot have an official language.

Ahmet İyimaya, a member of the commission from the ranks of the AK Party, said the official language of the state is a subtitle of the Article 3 of the constitution and his party decided to change its attitude towards this article so that an agreement could be reached.

“Parties can make proposals on an article. But when they withdraw their proposals, this does not mean a backward step. The important thing is to do the right thing. Our first proposal was also right. A state cannot have a certain language. The state is an official body,” he said.

The commission also agreed on the first two articles. The first article of the constitution says “The Turkish state is a republic,” while the second article concerns the characteristics of the Turkish Republic. CHP deputy Atilla Kart, who is also a member of the commission, said the three parties, except for the BDP, agreed on the first three articles of the constitution, which he said were kept the same as in the current Constitution.

So far, the commission, which began its work in October 2011, has reached consensus on 59 articles, while 113 articles of the new constitution have been written with reservations. The parliamentary Constitutional Reconciliation Commission comprises three members from each of the four political parties in Parliament. It met for the first time in October 2011 and started gathering ideas from various segments of society pertaining to their demands for the country’s new constitution. As a result of this input, however, it only managed to begin drafting the articles in May of last year. The commission members differ greatly in their opinion on many topics, an issue that has made it difficult for them to complete the draft.