MESOP DOCUMENTATION : Turkey Constitution Watch

A Chronology of the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission’s Activities,  2012 Gözde Burcu Ege

This article will provide a chronology for November of the work of Constitutional Reconciliation Commission and political parties on the constitution (inasmuch as it was reflected in the press) as well as briefly touch on the discussions found in the press over the course of that month.

From of the beginning of the month, the possibility of a presidential system for Turkey became newspapers’ number-one topic. [1] First, the 6 November edition of Milliyet reported that the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) was going to present its proposal on a presidential system to the Commission, but also that the party would be sensitive to the objections of the opposition and put other options up for discussion: a “semi-presidential” system or a system in which the president represented a political party. According to an article in the 7 November edition of Cumhuriyet, the AK Parti proposed a strong presidential system, while the Republican People’s Party (CHP) proposed a strong parliamentary system. [2] In addition, the CHP proposed turning 100 of the 550 current members of parliament into “national” politicians representing all of Turkey, while the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) brought its proposals for democratic autonomy to the Commission. Some of the most striking features of the AK Parti proposals on the legislature are that the president would be held accountable to the people, not the parliament; that members of parliament would represent localities and not the nation; that parliamentarians’ oath of office would not include reference to the principles or reforms of Atatürk; and that the National Security Council (MGK) would be removed from the constitution. [3] Last in line to present its recommendations to the Commission, the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) suggested that parliamentarians be sworn into office by placing their hands on the Koran and taking an oath to secularism. According to an article in Cumhuriyet, the BDP, citing the ongoing prison hunger strike, refrained from making proposals at the 7 November session of the Commission. [4] Meanwhile, the 8 November edition of Zaman stressed that the CHP supported the AK Parti’s suggestion to remove the MGK from the constitution. [5] A headline in Aydınlık on the parties’ proposals on the legislature read as follows: “AKP bothered by ‘Atatürk Reforms’; CHP bothered by ‘Turkish nation’.” [6]

The 22 November edition of Cumhuriyet [7] reported that the Reconciliation Commission could not agree on the AK Parti’s proposed presidential system because of opposition from the delegates of the other three parties. The AK Parti, which had presented the Reconciliation Commission with the “legislature” section of its proposal on the presidential system during the first part of the month, went on to explain out how the “Turkish model” in its “executive” section of the proposal would work. Several features of the AK Parti proposal made this “Turkish model” different from the presidency in the United States: the single-house parliament made up of 550 representatives, the preservation of a unitary state, the subordination of all armed-forces commands other than the Chief of Staff under the National Defense Ministry, the renewal of half of the members of parliament every three years, the appointment of ambassadors by the president, and the power of the president to abrogate parliament (under the condition that the president’s term in office also ends). [8] However, according to a 27 November article in Milliyet, [9] right before presenting its proposal to the Commission, the AK Parti made a last-minute change to add the right of parliament to impeach the president in addition to the right of the president to abrogate parliament. The AK Parti also included an insurance measure in the proposal to prevent the parliament from using impeachment simply to shorten the president’s term in office or to replace one president with another: “If the president decides to abrogate parliament, his or her own term in office will simultaneously come to an end.” Meanwhile, a system of “three candidacies” was explained as follows: “When the parliament impeaches the president, the president will be allowed to run for office three times, rather than the normal two.” Responding to the “Turkish-model presidency” proposed by the AK Parti, the other parties proposed strengthening the existing parliamentary system. The CHP and MHP proposals in particular limited the powers of the presidency. According to Taraf, the MHP and BDP proposals agreed on making the Chief of Staff subordinate to the National Defense Ministry, something that the AK Parti has supported with a later amendment. [10] Furthermore, the various BDP proposals also included recommendations to eliminate the electoral threshold, expand the legal immunity of parliamentary representatives, and institute a quota of 300 men and 300 women in a 600-member parliament. [11]

The following were other articles discussed by the Reconciliation Commission during the month of November:

According to an article in the 9 November edition of Milliyet [12], all parties in the Reconciliation Commission reached an agreement on the inclusion of wording that  “The state is responsible for taking necessary measures to prevent girls from being married by force or at a young age.” At the meeting, they also agreed on the wording of the first clause of the article on marriage: “Every man and every woman reaching the age of marriage enjoys the right to marry and form a family.” This wording was interpreted as leaving the door open to the possibility of homosexual marriage. But when the AK Parti and MHP objected, it was decided to include a statement in the legal explanation of the article that would exclude homosexual marriage. The AK Parti also sought to include a measure against sperm banks by including the following statement in the article: “Every child enjoys the right to know his or her mother and father, and parents enjoy the right to have a relationship with their children.” The regulation would not require sperm banks to reveal the identity of the mother or father, but this information could be kept by the state to be relayed to concerned parties.

According to a 15 November article in Zaman, among the various proposals submitted by the AK Parti to the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission on a presidential system, there was also a regulation on those members of parliament currently in prison. According to the AK Parti proposal, members of parliament would also become immune from prosecution in cases related to “separatism” or “crimes against the regime,” making prosecution of MPs for these crimes impossible until the end of their terms without the approval of parliament. [13] According to the article, “A representative accused of committing a crime prior to or after his or her election cannot be detained, interrogated, arrested, or tried without the decision of parliament. The execution of a court sentence given before or after the election of a representative shall be postponed until the end of the representative’s term in office. The statute of limitations on trials and sentencing shall not apply during this time.” [14] Aydınlık put this headline on one of its articles: “Immunity for Separatists”. [15]

During the month of November, the parties also presented their proposals on citizenship to the Commission. According to an article in Taraf, the AK Parti and BDP both proposed the wording “citizenship of Turkey”; the MHP proposed the wording “Turkish citizenship”; and the CHP proposed the wording: “Turkish citizenship is the status of being a citizen of the Turkish Republic on the basis of equality and without respect to language, religion, race, ethnic heritage, political ideology, philosophical beliefs, confession, and similar factors.” [16]

The 23 November edition of Zaman [17] reported that the Commission could not reach an agreement on the topics of women’s rights or conscientious objectors. When the vice-chairwoman of the BDP, Meral Beştaş, stated that the article on women’s rights was being prepared in consultation with women’s organizations and other related interest groups, MHP delegate Oktay Öztürk said, “The door is being opened with help of the BDP’s proposals, and there are a bunch of vermin coming through that door and filling up the room.” These words caused an altercation between the delegates. “You cannot call women and other opposition groups ‘vermin,’” Beştaş responded. Because the articles on women’s rights and conscientious objection were said to be “only the BDP’s viewpoint,” they were entered completely in red into the draft text. Another article, entitled “Societal groups requiring special protections,” was drafted at the meeting. According to this article, the state would be made responsible for a wide variety of measures to protect “the young, the elderly, the disabled, the chronically ill, injured veterans of war and state service, widows, and orphans.” The High Election Commission’s (YSK) planned introduction of “mobile polling stations” for the disabled and chronically ill in the near future was given as an example of such a measure.

You can read analysis by the TESEV Democratization Program regarding continued work on the constitution from our blogs in Turkish; in English .

*TESEV, Constitution Watch Project Assistant

[1] On the possible switch to a presidential system, see Gökhan Bacık’s article on [in Turkish]:

[2] “Başkanlık Komisyonda” [Presidency at the Commission], Cumhuriyet, 07 Kasım 2012.

[3] For the full AK Parti proposal on the legistlature, see:

[4] “Eylem Uzlaşmayı da Tıkadı” [Protest Holds up Reconciliation Too], Cumhuriyet, 08 Kasım 2012.

[5] “MGK’nın Anayasadan Çıkarılmasını CHP de İstiyor” [CHP Wants MGK out of Constitution Too], Zaman, 08 Kasım 2012.

[6] “AKP ‘Atatürk Devrimleri’nden, CHP ‘Türk Milleti’nden Rahatsız” [AKP bothered by ‘Atatürk Reforms’; CHP bothered by ‘Turkish nation’], Aydınlık, 10 Kasım 2012.

[7] “Uzmandan Vekile Müdahale” [Expert Interferes with Representative], Cumhuriyet, 22 Kasım 2012.

[8] For details on the AK Parti’s proposal on the executive, see:

“Meclisi Fesheden Başkan da Gider” [A President Abrogating Parliament Would Also Go], Milliyet, 22 Kasım 2012.

[9] “Başkanlıkta Son Dakika Sürprizi” [Last-Minute Surprise on Presidency], Milliyet, 27 Kasım 2012

[10] “Üç Partiyi Birleştiren Teklif” [A Proposal That Unites Three Parties], Taraf, 29 Kasım 2012.

[11] “AK Parti’nin Yeni Anayasa Önerisinde Tutuklu Vekil Sürprizi” [Surprise from the AK Parti on Imprisoned MPs in New Constitution Proposal], Zaman, 15 Kasım 2012.

[12] “Çocuk Gelinlere Anayasal Koruma” [Constitutional Protection for Child Brides], Milliyet, 09 Kasım 2012.

[13] “Üç Partiyi Birleştiren Teklif” [A Proposal That Unites Three Parties], Taraf , 29 Kasım 2012.

[14] “AK Parti’nin Yeni Anayasa Önerisinde Tutuklu Vekil Sürprizi” [Surprise from the AK Parti on Imprisoned MPs in New Constitution Proposal], Zaman, 15 Kasım 2012.

[15] “Bölücülüğe Dokunulmazlık” [Immunity for Separatists], Aydınlık, 16 Kasım 2012.

[16] “Türk Yerine Türkiye Vatandaşlığı” [Citizenship of Turkey, not Turkish Citizenship], Taraf, 21 Kasım 2012.

[17] “Uzlaşma Komisyonu’nda ‘haşere’ Benzetmesi Tartışma Çıkardı” [Comparison to ‘Vermin’ Causes Fight at Reconciliation Commission], Zaman, 23 Kasım 2012.