We have a saying in Turkey "great malice creates good deeds." This could be the case after the debate caused by a statement made by Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman who suggested secularism should not be a part of the new constitution and that "references to Islam" should be more strongly presented.
The statement drew criticism from all sectors of society and close colleagues to Kahraman like President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu turned their backs on him and stressed that secularism will, of course, be mentioned in the new constitution and that there is no need for any references to Islam.
The president went further to say that he was the one who suggested to the MuslimBrotherhood leadership in Egypt in 2010 to draft a secular constitution and that he still sticks to this policy. He said Turkey's secularism means the state is equidistant to all religions and that while the state should be secular individuals do not have to be secular. He stressed that secularism does not mean atheism.
So with these statements, it is clear that there is no room in Turkey for anyone to debate whether we should have a secular constitution or not. Secularism is a pillar of the Turkish constitution and will remain so.
Yet the debate we have seen over secularism and the constitution is also an eye opener. It is time Turks started in earnest to debate what the new constitution should contain. No one has been discussing the essence of the new constitution while the debate has centered on superficial issues. We need to discuss in detail the nitty gritty details that will be key to how this country will be run and what kind of a system we need. Today the parliamentary system is not functioning properly.
The system has degenerated thanks to the 1982 constitution that is in force today. The junta leaders wanted to keep the strings of the government and the state apparatus in their hands even after they allowed the election of a civilian government in 1983. So they appointed junta leader Kenan Evren as president and gave him vast powers that the president today enjoys. The idea was to keep the elected government in line. The military said after Evren, the president would be elected by the Parliament. In the 1961 constitution, the president was a symbolic ceremonial figure with no real powers and thus he was elected by Parliament... The 1982 constitution ruined everything. In 2010, Parliament went even further and changed the constitution to allow the people to elect the president. So you had a president with incredible powers but elected by the people. It meant that the president had more powers than a president elected by the presidential system.
This is the crooked situation that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants to change. Erdoğan was elected by 52 percent of the voters in the first round and thus became the most popular person in Turkey in modern times. He has the support of more people than the ruling party and the prime minister. However, Erdoğan wants this situation to change. That is why he insists on a new constitution that will create a presidential system that will correct the current mess.
So let us hope the debate triggered by Kahraman turns into a meaningful debate on the fundamentals of a new constitution.