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MÜSİAD draft constitution highlights freedoms

02.12.2011, Today’s Zaman

The Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (MÜSİAD) on Thursday announced the final draft of a proposed text for a constitution for Turkey, which emphasizes fundamental rights and freedoms, the freedom of conscience and religion as well as the right to education in one’s mother tongue.

MÜSİAD President Ömer Cihad Vardan, who introduced the association’s proposal to the press on Thursday, said it had taken MÜSİAD six months to complete the draft.

“In the current global circumstances, MÜSİAD has long been pointing out the need for structural reforms in our country, given the economic and political position it has arrived at and the future targets, and we have long been saying that a new constitution is the most important reform needed,” Vardan said. “MÜSİAD gives heartfelt support to the ideal of a civilian [i.e., without militaristic overtones] constitution based on societal reconciliation. MÜSİAD believes that this constitution should be a ‘social contract’ based on the consensus to be achieved in society, shaped by civilian politicians and adopted through the approval of the people.”

“This is a suggestion for a holistic change,” he said, noting that MÜSİAD was not interested in discussing the methods of drafting and adopting a new constitution. He said MÜSİAD believed the current Parliament was fit to adopt a new constitution, and did not agree with those suggesting that a new “founding” parliament should be established to do the job. He said whether the constitution can be adopted using regular methods and in the current Parliament will be a significant test for Turkish democracy.

Vardan noted that MÜSİAD’s constitution was drafted on the principles of the “free individual,” a “pluralistic society” and an “impartial state.” The organization asserts that the idea of a free individual necessitates respect for diversity, something that can only be possible in a pluralistic society, which, in turn, is only possible under an impartial state that stands at an equal distance from every ideology and belief. “This is why constitutions should not be trying to shape the society but, instead, should be embracing it. In this vein, MÜSİAD has kept in sight all the sensitivities of every segment of society as it developed its propositions.”

In addition to being short and simplified, the new constitution features a brief preamble that offers a short description of a fully democratic state. MÜSİAD has kept the first three articles of the Turkish Constitution that define the form of government and official language, but has given Parliament the right to change these three articles — which are currently not amendable — with a two-thirds majority vote. The constitution also changes the wording of many phrases, and treats the “Turkish nation” concept as a “joint identity,” as opposed to the current Constitution, which treats the phrase more as an ethnic trait. The constitution emphasizes equality, but also allows affirmative action for disadvantaged groups or segments. It also says international agreements override domestic law. The text also calls for the adoption of a Law on Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, in line with the international agreements of which Turkey is a signatory. It also introduces changes to the judiciary, and under what conditions martial law can be declared. Its articles on freedom of religion allow for the exercise of religion as long as individuals do not resort to violence, but keep the obligatory religion courses in schools in place. Its description of citizenship is based on the relevant regulations of European Union law.

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