Turkey’s First Participatory Constitution-making Attempt and Its Reflections on Ethnic and Religious Communities
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Making a new constitution has always been an issue in Turkey’s political agenda since the 1982 Constitution came into power as a result of a coup d’état. The Constitution has been amended several times during thirty-three years, yet the authoritarian spirit of the Constitution remained unchanged. Therefore, the 1982 Constitution is considered as an impediment to achieve a truly democratic order. The new constitution is considered as a solution to the equal citizenship problems of the citizens from different ethnic and religious communities. These communities have suffered from the restrictive provisions of the 1982 Constitution such as compulsory religious classes, centralist local administration, ethnicity based citizenship definition, and the monist structure of the Directorate of Religious Affairs. These provisions prevented the citizens from different ethnic and religious backgrounds from enjoying their citizenship equally. Following the 2011 general elections, all the parties in the Parliament agreed on making a new constitution and established a Constitutional Reconciliation Commission based on the unanimity and the equal representation of the political parties. The Commission also adopted the participatory models, for the new constitution-making process for the first time. In accordance with the participatory models, the Commission organised a public consultation process to collect the public views as much as possible. Civil society organisations representing the various segments of society mobilised and participated in the process to a large extent. Ethnic and religious communities also showed a great interest to the new constitution-making process in an unprecedented scale because for the first time in Turkey’s history, they were officially invited by the state to contribute to an important decision-making process. This study aims to discover the activities, demands and the influence of the ethnic and religious communities in the new constitution-making process. The participatory constitution-making model was practiced for the first time in Turkey. Moreover, the participation of ethnic and religious communities makes this occasion a very unique experience which needs to be examined carefully. In order to understand the minority participation, in-depth interviews were conducted with the Commission members and the representatives of the participating communities. Also, the proposals of the political parties and the reports of the participating communities were examined. More importantly, the proceedings of the hearing and the drafting sessions were analysed to understand the influence of these communities on the process as a whole. The issues regarding the problems of the ethnic and religious communities were the most controversial ones in the drafting process. As a matter of fact, these issues overlapped the “red lines” of the parties and eventually halted the process. When examining the proceedings of the drafting process, the demands and the problems of the ethnic and religious communities found a very limited place in the discussions of the parties. In this respect, it was observed that the traditional attitude of the state towards the ethnic and religious communities was reproduced in the drafting process. Proposing a constitutional solution for these demands was the only way to make the new constitution to be truly “new”. However, such an important process was ruined due the political contention between parties.
PhD in Ethno-Political Studies