One should not expect a cure-all magic package but appreciate every single positive step because improvements take place through small steps extended over a period of time in Turkey.
In the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey the state is defined as “a democratic, secular and social state … respecting human rights, loyal to the nationalism of Atatürk and based on the fundamental tenets set forth in the preamble.” In other words, the fundamental principles such as democracy, secularity, and rule of law are restricted to the nationalism of Atatürk and to the most problematic part of the Constitution, the preamble. To be more precise, these fundamental principles were left open to the interpretation of the bureaucratic elite who consider themselves as the owner of the state.
WHY SO MANY REFORM PACKAGES?
The Parliament keeps approving constitutional and legal reform packages for years; however, the state has not yet turned into a democratic constitutional state respecting human rights. Numerous harmonization packages for accession to the European Union (EU), constitutional reform packages and judiciary packages have been adopted but chronic problems still persist. There are two main reasons for which these problems persist despite such packages:
The number one reason is the despotic state apparatus which desires to dominate every part of our lives through tutelary order waiting in ambush to declare its hegemony once again although it was seriously damaged by the constitutional referendum in 2010. The reform packages have seriously damaged this despotic structure so far. Nevertheless, the packages will provide a temporary solution to our problems unless the fundamental paradigm of the state undergoes a radical change.
The second reason is social. The Republic has caused polarization of the society; divided it into groups and marginalized each group against another. The state, in the end, created a fear monger through external-internal threat perceptions. As a result, social groups began to have different problems and their priorities differed. Every sect of the society wept for its own problem, so to speak, yet ignored “others.” This, of course, created social tension. Pro-reform governments, notably the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), tried to resolve growing issues by means of reform and democratization packages as social demands and reactions increased.
Just by looking at the developments that took place in 2013, one can see that all religious, cultural, ethnical groups, political movements, women and youth groups have problems and raise their voice for a solution when we are approaching to the year of two major elections, 2014. Developments in the region and setting the score with the old political system through cases, such as Ergenekon among others, raise expectations for a new and more democratic, liberal and fair system embracing the entire society. Moreover, the new constitution draft and resolution processes in addition to the aforementioned developments have increased expectations of all groups.
RESOLUTION PROCESS AND THE NEW DEMOCRATIZATION PACKAGE
The current situation requires that the new democratization package is not limited to the resolution process; i.e., regulations for the resolution of the Kurdish issue. Given the backstage rumors and the policies adopted by the AK Party to date, it is possible to say that the new package will address to different groups and include regulations to resolve wide-ranging issues. Furthermore, the Kurdish question is not only an ethno-political issue but also an issue caused by the current political and legal system in Turkey. Therefore, any regulation that will render the current political and legal regime more democratic and broaden and protect rights and freedoms will both positively contribute to the resolution of the Kurdish issue and reassure the entire society. Finding a solution favoring the democratization of the country is an understandable political choice and an accurate method in terms of receiving social support to the subsequent steps for the solution process.
WHAT WILL THE PACKAGE INCLUDE?
It is known that a delegation consisting of Ministers and the AK Party executives have been working on democratization package(s). However, the content of the package has not yet been announced. On the other hand, what has leaked to the media and backstage rumors may give an idea about the package: It is expected that the package to be announced will include improvements in discrimination, language rights, political freedoms, freedom of religion, freedom of association and penal code procedure. There are numerous indications in this sense.
In the end, one should not expect a cure-all magic package but appreciate every single positive step because improvements take place through small steps extended over a period of time in Turkey. So be it as long as it includes regulations providing permanent/radical solutions and is enacted before it is too late.
Translated by Gülgün Kozan Köse,SETA
[Sabah Perspektif, August 17, 2013]