Traces of 1980 coup still seen in politics, constitution

It has been 33 years since the Sept. 12, 1980 military takeover, but the system implemented after the coup is still alive in the country.

Traces of 1980 coup still seen in politics, constitution

It has been 33 years since the Sept. 12, 1980 military takeover, the bloodiest coup d'état that Turkey has ever seen, but the system implemented after the coup is still alive in the country. The main imprint left by the coup makers is the constitution which was drafted two years after the 1980 military coup. Although significant amendments to the constitution were made to change the legal order brought by the coup, the current constitution still bears the spirit of the Sept. 12 coup, with the 10 percent election threshold and the Political Parties Law.

Lowering the election threshold is a necessary step for a just electoral system while amendments to the Political Parties Law are crucial for further democratization in Turkey, said columnist Nazlı Ilıcak to Today's Zaman. In trying to explain why Turkey still has these undemocratic elements, she said “The Justice and Development Party [AK Party] does not want to change these elements as it is the majority in Parliament.”

The election threshold, which came into force when the 1980 coup regime adopted the 1982 Constitution, is still one of the main obstacles to real democracy in Turkey. Under the current election law, parties need to win at least 10 percent of the vote in a general election to receive state funding and be represented in Parliament. The military regime argued that political instability was due to the lack of an election threshold in the Political Parties Law in force at the time.

While the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) strongly favor lowering the threshold, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said this year in July that his government has no plans to lower the election threshold. Noting that the current 10 percent threshold was put into practice before his government came to power, he said lowering the threshold would harm Turkey's political stability.

Speaking about the Political Parties Law, Ilıcak stated there should be a pre-election system in which all the registered members of political parties should decide the nominees for members of Parliament. “Democracy cannot be achieved in a country without first constituting democracy in political parties,” added Ilıcak.

Apart from the electoral threshold and the Political Parties Law, Ilıcak also drew attention to the Higher Education Board (YÖK) Law which carries traces of the 1980 coup, expressing her desire to grant universities broader freedoms instead of the existing centralized structure.

Speaking on the work being done to draft a new constitution, Ilıcak said she is hopeful. “At least there is a draft of articles which all the political parties have reconciled on.”

In 2011, the parliamentary Constitutional Reconciliation Commission composed of the four political parties represented in Parliament was established to draft the new constitution. However, the commission failed to finish their work by the end of last year, the deadline for the new draft.

“Our goal is to present this constitution to Turkey by the end of 2012. There is no way Turkey can continue with the current constitution. In my opinion, the expiration date for this constitution has already passed,” Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek said during a meeting with civil society organizations in the Central Anatolian province of Konya last year.

Ergun Özbudun, a constitutional law professor, told Today's Zaman that it is difficult to prepare a new constitution with consensus from all the four political parties in Turkey. Recalling that the agreed-on articles are just technical issues, Özbudun said it seems impossible to reconcile disputed articles such as the first three article of the constitution, the definition of citizenship, the formation of the Religious Affairs Directorate and compulsory religion classes at schools.

The 1980 military coup was the bloodiest and best executed coup in the history of Turkey. A total of 650,000 people were detained during this period while files on 1.68 million people were kept at police stations. A total of 230,000 people were tried in 210,000 cases, mostly for political reasons. A further 517 people were sentenced to death while 7,000 people faced charges that carried a sentence of capital punishment. Of those who received the death penalty, 50 were executed. As a result of unsanitary living conditions and torture in prisons, a further 299 people died while in custody. Memories of the death, torture, pain and ruined lives of Sept. 12 continue to plague the country.

One of the significant steps towards the normalization of Turkey was the trial of two surviving coup instigators which began in 2012. Retired general and former President Kenan Evren and former commander of the Air Force Tahsin Şahinkaya -- the two surviving leaders of the bloody Sept. 12, 1980 coup -- went on trial for leading the brutal takeover that shaped the country and traumatized the nation for three decades. However, Evren did not attend the court hearings, citing health reasons.

The commencement of the trial was met with cheers by many people in the country, with thousands of protesters gathering outside an Ankara court on the first day of the trial, waving flags and shouting slogans demanding justice and the prosecution of all people who played a role in the staging of the Sept. 12 coup.

The trial of the coup leaders was made possible by a government-sponsored reform package that was approved in a referendum in 2010. Among other things, the reform package annulled a constitutional article that served as a legal shield for the coup leaders. During the campaign for the referendum, both the main opposition CHP and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) called on the public to say “no” to the reforms, claiming that it was a lie that the AK Party government would bring the perpetrators of the Sept. 12 coup to justice.

Cihan

 

Last Mod: 12 Eylül 2013, 09:40
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