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13:41, 24 August 2017 Thursday
Erhan Erken

Erhan Erken
Update: 21:37, 12 April 2017 Wednesday


Turkey's April 16 referendum around the corner...


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Turkey will be heading to a new referendum on April 16th. Approximately 58 million people will vote for the Presidential Government System. In this election, the voters will vote yes or no on an 18-item bill that has been approved by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey  and approved by the President.

As known, this bill does not include a change that was made in 1982 after the military coup d'état on September 12, 1980, which was prepared by those who were behind that coup and accepted referendum.  Although the Constitution later underwent various changes, the main draft itself was not changed in its entirety. Today, there is no change in the entire Constitution. Voters will vote on a set of 18 proposed amendments to the Constitution of Turkey.

In the past, there have been many attempts with the aim of preparing a new constitution, but for one reason or another has never come to fruition.  With focus on the one issue, the entire constitution was prepared with the focus and ratified during the heightened conditions of the September 12 incident. Although a large part of the society had expressed a desire for the change based upon the current discourse, this change cannot come about when taking into consideration the conditions of the country at that time.

As a summary, what kind of approach did the September 12 Constitution encompass?

One of the most important features of the September 12 Constitution stems from the fact that parliamentary will and government were controlled by a number of constitutional mechanisms. In this case, the parliament and the emerging government elected by the people did not carry out the administration of the country as endorsed by the people despite carrying the responsibility of the administration.

The presidential office also had a very important place in the system established by this constitution. Those who drafted the constitution most likely calculated that at the head of the country there would be either need to be a retired commander or someone of the elites approved by the soldiers, and defined this according to the definition of duty. A Presidency structure was thus created that controlled the system with various institutions in which they had no responsibility other than treason, but also was given the authority and the ability to act.

In addition, the National Security Council (NSC) had the opportunity to supervise the government for the first time during a crucial time. Also, the Constitutional Court was able to make the adopted laws in the Parliament non-functional when necessary. The Court of Cassation could establish administration with the Council of State also establishing tutelage in very much the same way on the legal system. The election of members of the high courts had very little influence by the council and the government, and these institutions had a staff structure within their own narrow circles.

Later, with some subsequent changes, the function of the NSC was brought to a different position and partially prevented some tutelage in this area. Some steps were also taken regarding the tutelage on the legal system. Some of these were rather successful; some of them gave rise to different issues. Especially, the fact that the structuring of the FETO became effective in the process led to the emergence of new problems.

Another important aspect of the September 12 Constitution was the double structure that existed in the judiciary. The military judiciary, which exists completely outside the civilian judiciary system, worked in its own inherent way and maintained a dual legal system within the country.

Again, the September 12 system foresaw the electoral system and the political party law, which would put the Nation’s tendencies in the parliament and keep it under control relatively easily.

Structural change in the system

After the 367 crisis that emerged in 2007, the referendum on the election of the President of the Republic was presented and accepted. Along with this decision, this laid the cornerstones of a new Turkish infrastructure.

The presidency, which had already been strongly empowered by the new arrangements of the September 12 Constitution, came to an even stronger position when it was voted in by the people.

In the AK Party era, which has been in power until then, this issue did not cause a great deal of trauma, except for a few issues that were resolved within the system due to the fact that the people of the same understanding were present in the administration. However, the danger of double-headedness that was encountered on this path due to the 2007 public ballot was obviously the most important problem area of the system in Turkey.

There were two roughly possible solutions to this problem: either making the Prime Minister's institution more powerful and symbolizing the President's presidency, or passing the President's presidency to the executive and moving into a presidential or semi-presidential type of structure.

As a result of the studies carried out within this framework, a model of the Presidential Government System was created and this system will be brought before the public on 16 April.

Presidential Government System

There has been a very enlightening effort that has been presented to the people regarding the Presidential Government System. Many have tried to explain this system in detail, either as scientific research or by way of print media. In terms for the voters it is a great blessing to have been able to have people, who from the very beginning, who can competently explain the system in its entirely presenting all the necessary facts.

Of course, it is a fact that there are various platforms in which explanations with just a few limited healthy voices while the remainder is a platform for those that are unfamiliar with the subject. But despite all this, with a little effort the citizens who will vote can reach the right information as a foundation, a situation that will be truly rewarding for our country.

I do not want to go into a detailed analysis of the proposed system in this article however I would like to voice a few things in this regard.

First of all, it is an important and positive position that some of the most important constitutional articles of the Constitution, which are described as the Constitution of September 12, are discussed in the Grand National Assembly and they are presented in the direction of change and presented to the public. Hopefully some changes in these areas will be made possible by the will of the people, which will open up further extensive changes that are likely to be made later.

These changes are likely to prevent the double-headedness danger that is inherently present in the current constitution. Another important point is that the conflict between the military judiciary and the civil judiciary within the legal system will be eliminated.

Acceptance of the bill will also make it possible for the Presidential Office to position itself as the head of the executive, but also allow it to be audited and, if necessary, held to accountability before the judiciary.

At this point, it has been mentioned especially within opposition circles that if the President and the majority of the parliament are made with the people of same mentality, there is a possibility that it cannot be ‘investigated’.

Considering this matter, the fact that the Court and other jurisdictions are in the system should be taken into account. At the same time, both the President and the parliament will front the public once every five years, making these features important valve mechanisms among the new draft items.

Moreover, in the case of contention between the parliament and the President both sides have the possibility of early election; the system presents a problem-solving in the face of possible managerial crises.

When looking back at the history of previous constitutions of Turkey, they have been made to remove the various defects that had arisen in the past as well as to create a more manageable country for the future. The amendment that we are looking at now is a striking example of exactly the same situation.

Other changes that come after this amendment

After the amendment of the Constitution of 16 April, the Political Parties law and the electoral system  it will also be necessary to make arrangements so that the will of the people can be reflected through parliamentary laws the parliament and without tutelage. In the event of the implementation of these regulations, we believe that some of the issues and the inconveniences that are related to the above-mentioned points discussed amongst the public will cease to exist completely. It is hoped that the next step will be to make some changes and that the current system arrives to a better point.

Like every other citizen, we are also hope  to see the days where other organizational structures  such as the Higher Education Council (YOK) as well as others issues of contention that are in the September 12 Constitution  will be taken up as a whole and replaced with better ones.

Every step that strengthens the will of the nation in a country like Turkey that has undergone a significant structural change in the past one hundred years, whereby the State apparatus is always in present society and the people’s wishes and tendencies are being kept under constant control. But the realization of these changes always brings with it significant pains.

What do the referendum yes and no answers mean?

Another important feature of the April 16 referendum is that it coincides with Turkey's freedom from a coup attempt like that of the one that took place on July 15th. The FETO organization, other participants of the coup d'état and foreign support, caused serious disturbance for the community.  Another important factor is that an international struggle is taking place at the same time in the immediate south of Turkey and alongside its borders.

Turkey's neighbors, allies and even enemies,  along with a host of combined elements including hostility towards the country has  moved this referendum that is a partial constitutional amendment to a different place altogether.

The countries that do not support the legitimate government in Turkey during the coup attempt and those in fact who encouraged the coup plotters are acting together with those who want a negative outcome from this referendum. Those who try to reduce Turkey's position in every way in our struggle at the south of our country, those who support the contributors of terror that hurts the way of life in Turkey, those who are behind the elements of FETÖ both within and outside of Turkey of which at times are insidious, and at time openly hostile, who desire a negative referendum result.

As a result of all this, the approval of this partial constitutional amendment, which is an important step for better governance of Turkey, is an acceptance or a voting on of the current government and beyond as well as its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

According to the emerging picture, those who will vote yes in the referendum will not just say yes to this draft. At the same time they will also have declared that they are standing against the July 15 coup attempt, that they are in favor of the present administration against both visible and invisible enemies who consistently attempt to snuff out our struggle in the south of our country. From within, they will have also displayed a stance against all separatists and separatist elements, especially the PKK, who want to turn the country into a pool of blood, whilst at the same time it will be a stance against the domestic and foreign FETO network.

Those who are in favor of the no vote are those who cannot embrace with sincerity the changes that the partial constitutional amendment will bring. I should state that this is not a healthy situation. Unfortunately, the current conjuncture has brought the country to this point in affairs.

An important duty for those in power

In this context, perhaps the most important task is to take to task by categorizing our citizens who sincerely are concerned regarding the interests of Turkey and who do not adopt the existing system and prefer the no vote, and separate them from those from our internal and external enemies. This is because in democratic systems, people may not always agree with everything that comes their way and those who are in this no vote category can bring forward a critical view of the issue at hand. It is equally worth noting that such designs are neither always positive nor appropriate. It is crucial to avoid a foundation for those who have behaviors and words that do not have sincere intentions.

We are pleased to see that this particular kind of effort is being made, whether it is way of public meetings or statements issued to the public.

In conclusion we believe that the new Presidential Government System will bring about a significant change to the September 12 Constitution and by bringing it forward to the public is deemed important. The acceptance of the new system will show the necessary stance to those who organized and took part in the attempted coup of July 15, as well as to those within and outside of Turkey, who are aiming to throttle this country.

By the will of Allah, I hope that our country will overcome this critical vote without trouble and that the change will bring a more manageable and stable system that will complement other constitutional and legal changes.

May Allah help our country and the entire Islamic world.



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