Miscalculations

Yet desires are not upheld by the realities of life if they are devoid of rationality and common sense. After all, laws are made to satisfy the needs of the people.

Miscalculations
Gen. Kenan Evren, first chief of general staff, later chief of the junta that staged the 1980 coup d'etat and later president of the republic, often said he would not allow holes be punched in the 1982 Constitution, the drafting of which he and his comrades had presided over.

Yet the 1982 Constitution has been amended 12 times since its concoction. Ironically Mr. Evren surprised people by saying that strict centralism in public administration is restricting Turkey and that a kind of decentralization must be adopted, as will happen sooner or later.

The Constitution he claimed to be custodian of had 177 articles. More than 80 of them have been changed.

If the referendum concerning the election of the president by popular vote is put to public approval, it will be the 13th amendment to the current Constitution. Its makers could not ever have dreamed of these developments.

Yet desires are not upheld by the realities of life if they are devoid of rationality and common sense. After all, laws are made to satisfy the needs of the people.

They cease to exist when they no longer do so or simply when they become cumbersome and coercive. This is something we are going to learn when we draft our new constitution as a civilian endeavor.

The political and extra-political forces that made it impossible to get the next president of Turkey elected in Parliament forced the system to take a different course. The only way was to refer to the public as the ultimate source of legitimacy.

The AKP, whose power and future prospects were challenged, took on the challenge and proposed a bill to hold presidential elections by popular vote.

Encouraged by what are commonly called "republic meetings" -- mass demonstrations against the AKP and its religious-conservative ideological stance -- social groups whose only common denominator was secularism went for something they would later regret.

A popularly elected president would be the preference of the insufficiently educated, conservative average men and women that would have no respect for the traditional bureaucratic elite.

However, they miscalculated their power and manipulative ability, and now they do not know how to back away from the trap they have walked into.

According to the political calendar, it seems Turkey will hold a presidential referendum to decide whether the next president of the republic will be elected by the people directly, as opposed to indirectly by Parliament as it is today.

In the meantime Abdullah Gul was elected to the presidency in the third round on Aug. 28. Let us wish him success and perseverance.

However, Article 19 of the current Constitution stipulates that 45 days following the amendment of the Constitution a new president must be elected.

This would indeed be an awkward situation, like having two moons in the sky. The only thing that can prevent this chaotic situation is to put together a brand new constitution and put it to a vote in Parliament and later present it for public approval (again by a referendum), as the AKP intends.

However, this process is expected to start at the beginning of next year at the earliest, or more, realistically, in March of 2008.

Those who pushed Turkey into this quagmire are irritated to the point of expressing their dread of electing the president by popular vote.

They are equally irritated by the prospects of formulating a new Constitution inspired by the AKP, which they still believe poses a serious threat to their modern and secular lifestyles.

Their worries may be realistic or not, but their expressed fear robs them of strategic vision and rational behavior.

Someone ought to tell them that it was their choice and stubbornness that caused so much confusion and legal entanglement.

Let us see how the new Parliament clears up this mess.

Sunday's Zaman
Last Mod: 02 Eylül 2007, 09:45
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