Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek vowed yesterday that a landmark drive to rewrite Turkey’s constitution would go ahead despite escalating violence in the southeast as he kicked off the first meeting of the Preparatory Constitution Commission tasked with drafting the new charter.
The deadly attacks on security forces by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Hakkari province that claimed at least 24 lives overshadowed “a historic day,” Çiçek said in opening remarks at the 12-member cross-party commission.
“No matter how great our pain is, we will suppress it. There is no turning back, regardless of how much the developing circumstances are making our task harder. Those developments maybe an attempt to discourage us from our way,” he said. “We will carry out our responsibilities with calm, prudence and common sense, sticking to law and democracy.”
Speaking to journalists after the closed-door session, Çiçek said a four-member sub-commission had been set up to outline the procedural rules under which the commission’ would work.
The sub-commission, comprised of Ahmet İyimaya of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Atilla Kart of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Oktay Öztürk of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Ayla Akat Ata of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), will prepare a draft by Oct. 24.
In their opening remarks at the meeting, all opposition representatives called for democratic reforms to be carried out simultaneously with the drafting of the new constitution.
CHP’s Kart said the new constitution should reflect the spirit of the time, calling for simultaneous amendments in the electoral law, political parties law, the abolition of special-authority courts, and a solution to the problem of imprisoned deputies.
Voicing sorrow over the killed soldiers, the BDP’s Akat said the Kurdish issue remained Turkey’s most urgent problem. The new constitution will be a first step towards a settlement, she said, suggesting also “confidence-boosting” amendments in the penal code, the anti-terror law and the political parties law
“A new constitution is not enough. The government should show utmost care for democracy. If this commission managed to gather despite the current events, it should be able to continue working free from daily politics,” Ata said.
AKP representative Mehmet Ali Şahin condemned the PKK attack, pledging that, “the parties’ representatives in Parliament will work with determination more than ever.”
Implying that open-ended debates on the new charter would be futile, he said, “We should not sacrifice the spirit of reconciliation to daily political debates.”
The MHP’s Faruk Bal said the new charter should keep the first three articles of the current constitution “which unites the state and the nation and associates the republic with democracy.” He said a new constitution would not be a “magic wand” to rectify all problems and called for parallel amendments in the electoral and political parties laws.
During the closed-door session, Çiçek requested commission members not to speak to journalists about the content of their meetings, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned. On the other hand, commission members reportedly agreed that Çiçek would be the chairman of the commission. They also agreed on a rotating chairmanship when the speaker is absent. Some members suggested a constitutional status for the commission, sources said.