Turkey’s new constitution will give the country the tools it needs to face today’s challenges and to play its important role as a pivot between East and West, writes Egemen Bağış.
Egemen Bağış is Turkey’s former EU minister and chief negotiator.
It has been over 93 years since the Turkish Republic was founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The tradition of Turkish constitution and culture was revolutionised at that time and in many of the years that followed.
Over past decades Turkey has had political rises, where stability and fundamental values have been upheld. However, there have also been several historical challenges leading to legislative reviews, such as the current constitution that dates back to 1982, mostly brought about following violent military intervention.
Recent threats directed from various sources, for instance the failed military coup in July 2016 and the ongoing fight against FETO, the despicable acts of terrorism from organised groups such as Daesh/ISIL, PKK, YPG, are constantly on the agenda in parliament, and add to the pressing need to address changes in Turkey’s political arena in order to prevent further danger.
Currently, instability is understandably causing much concern among Turkish citizens, for their psychological well-being and physical safety, welfare, and financial security. It is also affected by, and affecting, many others that are welcomed into Turkey, such as those escaping persecution in countries of their own where there is much instability and strife, to those that come to visit Turkey for its varied business opportunities or its wonderful culture, history and shores.
With this at the forefront of parliamentary minds, a drive to restore stability and to maintain a democratic platform, constitutional review and reforms are increasingly required, and this monumental change must be decided through the proposed referendum.
There have been many debates over the current constitution due to the fact that it dates back over 30 years now, and there is a broad consensus that changes and/or replacements are required.
President Erdogan’s proposal for a “New Turkey” incorporates well established methods of western political powers that can be integrated with Turkey’s unique requirements for a country that sits in a strategic East and West location. Therein lies the opportunity of satisfying the needs of a diverse region and population.
It can be compared in part to the presidential system used in the United States, however, there are properties that differ from this in order to provide the effective and stable management that Turkey requires. This is demonstrated in the proposed simultaneous elections of the TBMM (Grand National Assembly of Turkey, the parliament), with the presidential election, the joint renewal of elections, and the appointment of the aides to the president. The regulation rules that the president will be determined by election via ballot box.
The presidential system would be a three branch government system: executive, legislative and judicial. This enables government-controlled legislation or law-proposals from members of parliament only, while the presidential executive body fulfils the executive function. The president will have executive authority and will be responsible for appointing ministers or terminating their duties. Those ministers will be directly responsible to the president and will not be accountable to the Grand National Assembly. There will no longer be a prime ministerial role.
The president will, however, be liable to alleged inquiries by an absolute majority of the members of parliament, who may take the decision of referral to the Supreme Court by secret ballot of two thirds of the total number of members. In the new system, the president, assistants and ministers would be tried before the Constitutional Court.
The parliament will hold two main important powers, designating legislation and the budget, and they will exercise full authority in accordance with the principle of separation of powers, therefore the president will depend on the parliament.
For those who oppose the presidency system that base their misleading argument on the state system being compulsorily divided and a federal structure being established, in the proposal there would be no change to the present unitary state.
Currently the 94-year-old Republic of Turkey is ruled by its 65th government, which means that the average life span of a government has been less than a year and a half.
Once the proposed constitutional reform is accepted, Turkey will ensure stable administrations that will endure for at least five years, and hence our economy will grow with confidence.