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TUSIAD: “The ultimate objective ought to be a new Constitution which will reflect a genuine social contract and our will to live together freely”

TUSIAD has issued the following press release in the wake of the referendum on the constitutional amendment bill which took place on September 12, 2010:

“The referendum process on the bill introducing several changes to the Constitution has just ended following intense political debates. The electorate has said “yes” to the constitutional amendment package. The results of the referendum should be respected by all parties. 

Our views on the lessons to be drawn from the referendum process and on our expectations from the subsequent phase are set out below:

  • TUSIAD has expressed on numerous occasions that, independent of the results of the referendum, the need in Turkey for a new constitution remains very much alive. As a matter of fact, the referendum process as well as the referendum results has confirmed the common expectations of the majority of the population for a brand new Constitution. This new Constitution should completely replace the 1982 Constitution in a process that will involve political parties and civil society organizations.
  • It is natural for different segments of society to have different expectations from a new Constitution and to assign different significance to it according to their own priorities. Nevertheless, the new Constitution should, above all, carry the characteristics of “a progressive social contract which has a strong connectivity with the citizens through the representation of the will of all citizens of diverse backgrounds to live together.”
  • On the way to the new Constitution, Turkey needs mutual understanding, empathy, and constructive dialogue in order to resolve the issues that divide the society today. Historically, the democratization process has continually encountered three main issues. The new Constitution should help transform Turkey’s “three dividing lines” into “three bonding links”:
    – First, the freedom of religion and conscience: Will the state be able to treat all religions and sects on a truly equal basis?
    – Second, the issue of identities: Will all of us be “equal citizens” beyond being a Turk, Kurd, or from any other ethnic origin?
    – Third, the division of powers among the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches and their ability to work effectively free from tutelage: Will we agree on how the right balance mechanisms between the three branches will be formed, how the impartiality and the independence of the judiciary will be protected, and how the free will of the citizens will be represented in the political parties and the Parliament?
  • Therefore, the new and progressive Constitution is expected to:
    – Place the individual at the core,
    – Respond to identity inquiries through an approach that “unites equal citizens over common values”,
    – Resolve problems related to the freedom of religion and conscience,
    – Create an effectively functioning pluralist and participatory parliamentary democracy regime with all its institutions and rules,
    – Forge check and balance mechanisms between the executive, legislative, and judiciary powers that are free of any tutelage.
  • It is believed that any progress concerning the democratization of the Political Parties Law and the Electoral Law, the lowering of the electoral threshold, and the expansion of  the freedoms of expression and association would support the new Constitution drafting process and strengthen the climate of consensus
  • The current polarized social climate ought to be replaced by an environment conducive to free debate on the new Constitution. The political discourse and attitude adopted during the referendum process is not sustainable and has the potential to hinder the realization of the newly-formed consensus in relation to the new Constitution.
  • Keeping in mind the fact that in the next decade, elections (general and local elections, and the Presidential Election) will take place every 18 months, the continuation of the political discourse experienced in the period leading up to the referendum is highly risky for the processes of democratization, harmonization with the EU, and sustainable growth.
  • The core responsibility in this process lies with political parties and civil society organizations. Therefore, alongside traditional election programs, perspectives on the drafting and the substance of the new constitution should comprise the essential theme of the 2011 general elections.
  • During the preparation process of the new Constitution, dialogue between the academics and opinion leaders defending different ideas should be kept open and lively. It will be very beneficial to ensure a healthy domestic debate on the fundamental principles to be embodied in the new Constitution and on the drafting process. TUSIAD has already taken initiatives for a better functioning of this negotiation process and is getting ready to share its work with other civil society organizations and political parties.

In accordance with its social responsibility, TUSIAD is determined to undertake all the necessary actions during this entire process in line with the principles of transparency, independence, and volunteerism.”