We have already arrived

I have been telling that a new era had dawned for Turkey after the last general election and from now on the people's power is the most determining factor in internal politics.

We have already arrived
By Fehmi Koru, Today's Zaman

When I heard Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt, chief of General Staff of the Turkish military, speaking at the new school year's opening ceremony of the War Academies and saying that they had been following the preparations for constitutional change very closely by going through the draft text they acquired by their own means, I was suddenly relieved of any doubts about my country's bright future.

I am old fashioned and hard headed. I usually am the last person to accept the obvious, to the extent that I sometimes cannot hear what my own voice says.

I have been telling that a new era had dawned for Turkey after the last general election and from now on the people's power is the most determining factor in internal politics.

The people will lead the way in every field, although I have always carried a speck of doubt in my mind to the contrary.

But Gen. Büyükanıt's speech convinced me that Turkey has entered a new phase of its democratic journey. The style of the old days was completely different.

The high-ranking officers of the military had commissioned two intellectuals to write a new constitution in 1980, months before they carried out a military intervention and took the political reins into their hands in September of that very year.

Professor Aydın Yalçın of Ankara University and Coşkun Kırca, an active diplomat, cut all their ties with the outside world and worked tirelessly to prepare a constitution for the generals who were busy preparing a coup to topple the elected representatives of the people.

The final text of coconspirators was a starting point for the 1982 constitution, written supposedly by a specially designed Parliament and accepted by the people in a referendum.

In the post-coup period, when the Parliament, consisting of 160 members -- all hand-picked by the military rulers -- was convened and discussed the details of each article, two members, professors Orhan Aldıkaçtı and Şener Akyol wrote their own text in a hotel room right across from the Parliament building.

They took it to the military rulers and made amendments to their text after getting instructions from them. Which one of the two texts do you think was submitted to the referendum in 1982?

What I know for sure is that the generals' wishes superseded those of Parliament. All kinds of changes were made to the text -- a text that was the result of highly heated debates that went on for almost two years.

Now we have a public statement of the top officer of our military indicating the army's desire to participate in a debate over a new constitution as one of the opinion-givers, which range from political parties to ordinary members of civil society.

This is a novelty for Turkey. After a faulty start, the project of adopting a new constitution has found the right method. Many civil organizations will get together under the leadership of the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges (TOBB), the Turkish Chambers of Commerce and Industry, together with the Confederation of Turkish Labor Unions (Türk-İş).

When they produce their own text, they will distribute it to several other civic organizations to collect feedback.

Simultaneously, there will be other efforts to reach a consensus between different sectors and various interest-groups in society on what kind of a constitution we would like to have.

The attempt's style and its working arrangements resemble very much the preparation of an old document, which came into being on Sept. 17, 1787 in Philadelphia: the US Constitution. Instead of individuals who were elected specifically to draw up a constitution, the members of our Parliament will put the finishing touches onto an already-prepared text.

The new Turkish Constitution, I am sure, will have its own George Washington in the personality of Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan, the, and its own Benjamin Franklins, Alexander Hamiltons and James Madisons among the members of Parliament.

We seem to have come a long way. Gen. Büyükanıt, speaking in front of young cadets at the War Academies last week, said very clearly that the military would not stand by idle when the other interest groups debate the text of the new constitution among themselves.

They will send their opinions based on the draft text prepared by those who were volunteered to write a new constitution and they will submit it to the pertinent bodies of the state, he said.

I have little doubt now that we will eventually have a brand new constitution that will satisfy even the hard headed, but let us assume we will not be successful in producing one.

Even in that case, after hearing what Gen. Büyükanıt said in his speech, I will feel very little regret that we failed, since at that point we will already have achieved our goal of "a democracy without tutelage."

We seem to have already arrived.

Last Mod: 04 Ekim 2007, 10:53
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