Erdoğan's far-right ally prepares draft Turkish constitution

MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli has introduced his party's proposal for a new constitution. He said the draft aimed to update the "understanding of basic rights and freedoms," without elaborating.

Duvar English

Far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli has introduced his party's proposal for a new constitution that envisages an overhaul of the judiciary, saying that it would soon be presented to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for discussion.

Erdoğan has said he hopes a new constitutional text can be ready by 2022 for public debate, as the country prepares to mark the centenary of the creation of the modern Turkish republic in 2023 from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.

The Islamist-rooted AKP has spoken of drawing up a roadmap to a new constitution but has not yet announced any details.

"This constitutional proposal is the democratic torch of the 100 years that lies ahead, a move by our people to build and reclaim the future," Bahçeli said of the new draft on May 4.

Turkish voters only approved in 2017 the current revised constitution which established an executive presidential system in place of a parliamentary democracy, against stiff dissent from opposition parties and human rights groups.

Erdoğan was elected president under the new arrangements in 2018 but has made clear he wants further changes.

Bahçeli said the MHP draft recommended setting up a new court to deal with some issues now handled by the constitutional court, including shutting political parties. Parliament's power to select members of the judiciary would be expanded.

He said the draft aimed to update the "understanding of basic rights and freedoms", without elaborating.

Bahçeli noted that the general principles of the state listed in the first five articles of the current constitution were preserved with their exact form and qualities in Article 1 of the MHP's proposal.

"In the last paragraph of the article, it was stated that 'this article cannot be changed and cannot be proposed to be changed,'" he added.

According to the current constitution, Article 1 is on the form of the state, Article 2 on the characteristics of the republic, Article 3 on integrity, official language, flag, national anthem, and the capital of the state, and Article 4 is on irrevocable provisions.

Article 5 of Turkey's current constitution is on the fundamental aims and duties of the state.

Bahçeli and his MHP have previously called for the banning of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) which they see as endangering national unity.

The AKP and its MHP allies together have a parliamentary majority but their numbers are not enough to call for a referendum.

Turkey's existing constitution was adopted in 1982 following a military coup and has been amended many times over the years.

Rights groups and Turkey's Western allies have criticized what they see as increasing authoritarianism under Erdoğan, especially since a 2016 coup attempt that prompted sweeping crackdowns on his perceived opponents in the civil service, education, the military and elsewhere.

Turkish authorities say the measures were necessary for national security.