Commission seeks approval of more constitutional articles

Members of the parliamentary Constitutional Reconciliation Commission, which set out to draft a new constitution, are at a meeting in Parliament this file photo.

The parliamentary Reconciliation Commission, which is working to draft the new charter, met on Friday afternoon to discuss a recent proposal from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about the immediate approval of 48 articles by Parliament and decided to ensure approval of as many articles as possible.
Erdoğan on Wednesday called on the opposition parties to join together to pass 48 constitutional articles from Parliament on which four political parties have reached a consensus.
“Let [the parliamentary Reconciliation Commission] work for five days a week vigorously. There are 48 articles on which there is consensus. Let's increase this to 68 or 78. If you [the commission] cannot do this, let's pass the 48 articles immediately [in Parliament]. We can approve 48 articles in a week. Prove how sincere you are,” the prime minister said.
Erdoğan's proposal received a warm response from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), while the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) were more cautious, saying that approval of 48 articles is not sufficient and there is much work to be done to address thorny issues in the new constitution.
The commission, which will be working for five days a week from now on, is aiming to reach a consensus on the first chapter of the new constitution concerning fundamental rights and freedoms. There are 66 articles in this section.
Erdoğan's statements came following a meeting he held with Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek, who had a tour of party leaders this week as the head of the parliamentary Reconciliation Commission aiming to exchange views with party leaders on how to move forward in the preparation of a new constitution, whose progress has appeared to be stuck over the past couple of months.
In remarks to Today's Zaman, Ahmet İyimaya, a member of the commission from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), said his party is determined to increase the number of articles on which there is a consensus as much as possible.
The commission has not been given a new deadline, but it is expected to work vigorously until campaign time for the local elections slated for next March.
At Friday's meeting, Atilla Kart, a member of the commission from the CHP, criticized Parliament Speaker Çiçek for his critical remarks about the commission.
Speaking to reporters following his meeting with party leaders, Çiçek directed criticism at the commission on Wednesday for its slow progress in the drafting of the new text. He said the commission worked for 449 hours over 450 days.
Kart said if the commission failed, this failure belongs to all, including the parliament speaker, adding that Çiçek's critical remarks about the commission were very disturbing.
Kart also called on Çiçek to preside over the commission's meetings at least for one or two days in a week.
As a response, Çiçek said he will attend the commission's meeting as much as his schedule allows.
The parliamentary Reconciliation Commission comprises three members from each of the four political parties in Parliament. It met for the first time in October 2011 and started gathering ideas from various segments of society pertaining to their demands for the country's new constitution. As a result of this input, however, it only managed to begin drafting the articles in May of last year. The commission members differ greatly in their opinion on many topics, an issue that has made it difficult for them to complete the draft.
All the political parties represented in Parliament agree that Turkey needs a new constitution. But there are a few thorny issues, such as an article dealing with citizenship and a presidential system in place of a parliamentarian one, which have blocked negotiations in the commission.
Turkey's current constitution was drafted under martial law after the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup and has long been criticized for failing to respond to today's needs for broader rights and freedoms.
In the meantime, President Abdullah Gül on Friday commented on the ongoing work on the new constitution, saying: “I made very definite statements on this issue. Now, Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek is doing his best [with the new constitution]. I hope there will be a positive outcome. We all hope that a new constitution is written.”
AK Party spokesperson Hüseyin Çelik also talked about the new constitution, saying his party is ready to take action for the approval of the 48 articles on which there is consensus.
“Even if Turkey cannot make a new constitution, such a move will be better than nothing,” he said.

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