Turkey’s top boss urges government not to hinder charter

TÜSİAD, Turkey’s leading business group, tells the country’s politicians to cease their bickering on a new charter, saying the document ‘cannot wait’

AA photo

AA photo

Turkey’s top business leader has called on the government to avoid delaying charter-drafting efforts, saying the failure of the Constitution-writing attempt would raise questions about the government’s “steps on democracy.”

“Turkey’s losing of the chance to make the first civil and democratic Constitution has caused a great disappointment,” Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD) Chairman Muharrem Yılmaz said yesterday during a conference on “Institutionalization and Sustainability of Democracy.”

Delivering an opening speech at the event organized by the cooperation of TÜSİAD and Sabancı University, Yılmaz underscored that the paralysis of the charter-drafting talks should not be underestimated or brushed over.

“Representatives of our parties associate this deadlock with each other’s attitudes. Furthermore, we hear they are considering delaying it until after the next general elections, to be held 18 months from now. Unfortunately, these attitudes make us question the sincerity and reality of the steps toward democratic standards,” he added.

Hopes for the country’s first jointly-drafted charter faded on Nov. 19, with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) announcing it had pulled out of the inter-party Constitution Conciliation Commission, on the grounds that the panel had failed to accomplish its tasks over its two-year-long efforts.

Yılmaz said the announcement of the Commission that was formed to draft a new charter would stop operating came amid heightened hopes for the democratization process, stressing that the efforts “should not be delayed.”

“Now, have we returned to the starting point?” Yılmaz asked. “How will we motivate or get the academia and our citizens excited all over again? I want to ask: If we didn’t need a new Constitution, why has society been kept busy with this issue so much?”

Acknowledging the difficulty of reaching consensus on all topics in a short period of time, the TÜSİAD leader nevertheless asked the Commission and all political parties to soothe public’s concerns.

He emphasized that there was no other institution to which the Parliament could transfer its responsibility, adding that delaying the drafting efforts would be nothing but a “waste of time.”

“Today, I wish we were discussing a 21st century Constitution that will light up our future, instead of the agenda topics that we think are pulling us back,” Yılmaz said

The chairman of Turkey’s leading business leaders’ association had previously criticized the over-politicization of the debate on mixed-student housing, describing it as inopportune and a waste of time. “This inopportune row, which we consider as occupying too much space on [Turkey’s political] agenda, carries marks of the 1980 Constitution’s features promoting centralization and the [homogenization] of the individual,” he said on Nov. 8.

Head of Venice Commission warns against confrontational language 

Taking the stage after Yılmaz during the same event, the secretary of the Venice Commission, Thomas Markert, also said the failure of the Constitution-making process was an illustration of a lack of a culture of compromise in the country, which also hindered Turkey’s democratization.

“The winner-takes-all mentality is characteristic of new democracies and seems to me to be also persistent in Turkey. Political parties seem more inclined to confrontation rather than compromise,” Markert said.

The head of the Council of Europe’s advisory body said the methodology of the charter-making may not have been right, as it was very difficult for all four parties to agree on each article.

“Maybe bigger issues should have been approached, rather that dealing with it article by article,” he said.

The charter panel succeeded in agreeing on 60 articles, but no consensus has been reached on the remaining 112 articles, despite the passage of two years.

In his remarks, Markert also hailed the abolition of the tutelage system in which democratically elected politicians had been checked by the military, but warned that now there was a risk of no checks being left on governmental power.

Legal experts also touched upon the debate of the adoption of the presidential system in the country, noting that considering this confrontation-based political language, such a transition would cause “instability.”

“The division between the head of the state and the head of government has been quite effective in Turkey recently and, in my opinion, it should be maintained,” he said.

“The Turkish government has enjoyed a generally high degree of support among the population for quite a long time. It has, however, created a much bigger middle class and higher expectations in society. If Turkish democracy doesn’t adapt, it may therefore become less stable in the future,” Markert added.

Hürriyet Daily News

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