Six months after the failed coup attempt by Gülenists, Parliament approved the constitutional amendments proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which were supported by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the opposition party with a parliamentary representation of 39 seats. MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, who was previously opposed replacing the current parliamentary system with a presidential one, changed his mind after the failed coup this summer and gave a green light to a constitution change.
The proposed amendments have been accepted in Parliament. Now, there will be a referendum, and the Turkish people will decide their fate. We know there are too many reports full of misinformation circulating in the international mainstream media. They claim the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, will increase his power, which is not true. Given extensive authority, the president has enormous power under the current system, and yet, he still cannot be held accountable or charged. If the new system gets a "yes" from the people, this situation will change.
Again, reports allege that there would no longer be a formal cabinet answerable to Parliament in Turkey if the people approve the constitution, which is also not true. The system of checks and balances under the current system has been problematic, as it does not just guarantee that each of the three branches of government can limit the powers of the others, but it also blocks the execution by arising political or ideological crises that end up with military coups or coalitions that cannot succeed finishing one legislation session. The proposed amendments secure the separation of powers, but also close the roads for system blockades, therefore ensuring political stability.
The president will have criminal liability, and Parliament will have the right to start an impeachment inquiry against him and his deputies if necessary in the proposed constitutional draft, while the current Constitution does not allow this for any crime except treason, which is almost impossible to assert. Parliament will be able to send the president to the Supreme Court if three of every five deputies approve it via a secret ballot. However, if the president is accused of treason under the current Constitution, four of every five deputies must vote for him to be sent to the Supreme Court.
I will write more about what the new system brings if the proposed amendments are approved in the referendum in the next days in my column, but today I want to say first how surprised I am by the number of news reports full of misinformation regarding the constitutional draft in the English language news media. The amendments will make declaring martial law unconstitutional; therefore, attempting a coup will be illegal in Turkey. However, no one talks about it.
But I should learn not to be surprised as journalists reporting on Turkey's domestic affairs favor the Kemalist opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the pro-PKK Peoples' Democracy Party (HDP), both of which voted against even the proposed amendments that state the judicial system must be impartial and independent, while the related article of the current Constitution does not include any sign of impartiality.
Not only journalists, but even many political experts in the Western world who know that the current Constitution of Turkey was ratified by a military junta after the bloody 1980 military coup, comment in the same way. The previous 1961 Constitution was again ratified after the 1960 military coup. The current Constitution has been modified many times, but it still forms a mechanism of institutional control over the people's will that is basically undemocratic.
Let us speak loudly: The last two constitutions were ratified by military juntas right after coups d'état, and Turkey has a long history of military coups directly or indirectly supported by the West. Turkey joined NATO in 1952 and has had four coups since then. Almost everyone in Turkey is sure that NATO, and especially the U.S., encouraged the military to stage the coups in question, recalling that the intelligence agencies' long timeline of covert operations ended with coups in other countries. But did they leave us alone after assisting the juntas for coups? On the contrary, there is no use for coups if a state's politics is not set according to the others' needs afterwards. Constitutions ratified by military juntas do not serve the people's will, but the outsiders behind the coups benefit from them as well as the coup makers. That is what happened in Turkey in 1982 and in 1961 as well.
The constitution draft approved by Parliament will be voted on by the Turkish people in the spring and includes many reforms for the people's interests. But of course, it dissatisfies those who constructed a tool of institutional tutelage in the form of junta constitutions that serves their interests and they want to keep it.