Turkey’s AKP-Kurdish Constitution

The irony doesn’t escape me that the new constitution (a preliminary draft of which was leaked last week) appears to be being written primarily by a coalition of AKP and the Kurdish BDP (Peace and Democracy Party), with the internally divided CHP and the nationalist MHP on the margins. All four parties have a place on the Constitution Conciliation Commission, which has dealt with about 110 articles, but has reached consensus on only 30. The Commission is due to finish its work, come hell or high water, by April 23rd, the 93rd anniversary of Parliament’s inauguration. The alliance between AKP and BDP, although not agreeing on every point, has given these parties greater clout in moving the process forward. In an essay about the specifics of the process, Hurriyet Daily News parses some of the word changes being considered to the preamble and first four articles. One example:

Article No. 2 says, “The Republic of Turkey is a democratic, secular and social state governed by the rule of law; bearing in mind the concepts of public peace, national solidarity and justice; respecting human rights; loyal to the nationalism of Atatürk; and based on the fundamental tenets set forth in the Preamble.” The AKP wants to simplify this article without changing its root idea. Instead of the current article, the AKP favors the expression “The Republic of Turkey is a democratic, secular and social state governed by the rule of law and based on human rights.” The BDP also proposes a similar expression, but they also favor excluding the phrase “the nationalism of Atatürk,” while the AKP thinks that the expression could be attached on the Preamble.

Article 3 reaffirms that Turkey is an indivisible entity with a flag and a national anthem. BDP is OK with that, but would like to change “Its language is Turkish” to “Its official language is Turkish.” CHP and MHP would like to leave the language as it is in these sections. There is great deal of debate about the distribution of power laid out in the “legislative, executive, and judicial” article. CHP and MHP are strongly against calling Turkey’s government a “presidential system”. That has been on PM Erdogan’s wish list, since he would himself like to become president in a system rejiggered to give the president a great deal more power than at present. The BDP appears to be supporting him in that goal.

While the final outcome of the constitutional process is still unknown, the process itself is remarkable for the alliance that has developed between the interests of the Kurdish party and the AKP. Government peace talks with the PKK are going on in the background, with the BDP playing the role of go-between. One hand washing the other, but will everyone come out cleaner in the end?

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