To make an inventory of the Justice and Development (AK) Party’s “periods of conflict” with the tutelage order, let us venture down memory lane, going as far back as 2007, taking a look at the history of efforts made to revamp the Turkish Constitution.
The AK Party’s popularity boomed in the July 22, 2007, elections with the impact of the reactions towards developments such as the e-memorandum and the Turkish court's “disgraceful” ruling that 367 deputies must be present in parliament for a presidential election to be valid. As the constitutional change was the main “motto” during the campaign period, as soon as the elections ended, steps were taken for a new constitutional study.
Constitutional law Professor Ergun Özbudun, who has experience in the field, was asked to conduct a constitutional study on behalf of the AK Party. The team Özbudun established in the fall prepared a constitution draft aimed at wiping out the traces of the 1982 Constitution.
Threat message from court of appeals
Just as the AK Party government was about to unveil the draft, Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals Prosecutor's Office of the time sent news with one of the deputy prime ministers of that time. The news was along the lines of, “I am being pressured. If you insist on this constitution matter, I will have to file a closure case.”
As a result of the AK Party’s consultations after receiving this message, a “calm” approach was adopted, and hence a decision was made to postpone constitution efforts by spreading it over time.
Despite this, the actors of the tutelage regime, who believe the destiny of elected administrations is in their hands, and that a small excuse is enough for this, activated that “last resort” regardless. Six months on, a closure case was filed specifically on the anniversary of March 14, 2003, the date on which Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s political ban was lifted.
I reiterated this so it could be known that every time new constitution efforts are launched, the groups that do not recognize any constitution above that of 1982 bring up “expenses.”
Nationalist Party offers its support; opposition party remains indifferent
With President Erdoğan’s new constitution announcement the previous evening, it was understood once more that nobody can hold a candle to him in terms of determining the agenda and foregrounding. While everyone was glued to their TV screens, all attention on the pandemic restrictions, he “abruptly” brought up the proposal to change the Constitution during his speech.
He said: “These efforts must be carried out transparently, in front of the eyes of the people and the participation of all their representatives, and the outcome must be presented to the people for approval. In the event that we reach an agreement on this matter with our partner in the People’s Alliance, we can take action for the new constitution in the upcoming period.”
Devlet Bahçeli, president of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and AK Party’s partner in the People’s Alliance, expressed open support to this call yesterday.
In his statement, Bahçeli said: “Turkey clearly needs a new constitution. The Nationalist Movement Party’s agrees with this aim and opinion.”
“It is obvious that the existing and effective Constitution is a product of extraordinary circumstances, and despite changes to numerous articles over time, its pro-status-quo quality continues to remain strong.”
Erdoğan’s emphasis in his announcement that “these efforts are being carried out transparently, in front of the eyes of the people and the participation of all their representatives” clearly reveals that this call addresses opposition parties as well.
Everybody, the leaders of all parties, will certainly state their own opinions regarding this call. It is not something that can be overlooked. Meanwhile, Erdoğan’s move caught all opposition parties off guard, and negated the efforts of those on that front.
How the Republican People’s Party (CHP), which took action by collaborating with the tutelage order in the past to negate all preparations for a new constitution, will respond to this call is particularly a matter of curiosity. CHP Chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu had a “farmers’ meeting” yesterday, but despite giving a long speech, he didn’t touch upon this subject at all.
However, it should not be thought that he won’t ever mention it. Once they determine how and in what respect, they will certainly respond to this call – because it is not something that can be neglected or ignored.