Serkan Alan / DUVAR
“Table of Six”, the six opposition parties that are united to change Turkey’s presidential regime, on Nov. 28 announced their new constitution draft for the "Strengthened Parliamentary System.”
The alliance, consisting the Republican People’s Party (CHP), İYİ (Good) Party Felicity (Saadet) Party, Democrat Party (DP), DEVA (Democracy and Progress) Party, and Future (Gelecek) Party, have met regularly since Feb. 2022 and discussed how they will approach the elections that was scheduled to be held in 2023 and transform the political system of the country should they come to power. The slogan for the event was "Now is the time for democracy."
The new proposal for the constitution was announced in a meeting in Bilkent Otel in the capital Ankara with the participation of main opposition CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, center-right İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener, Islamist Felicity Party leader Temel Karamollaoğlu, DEVA leader Ali Babacan, Future Party leader Ahmet Davutoğlu, and Democrat Party leader Gültekin Uysal. The leaders came to the meeting hall together.
CHP member of the Constitutional and Legal Reforms Commission of the Table of Six, Muharrem Erkek, was the first person to speak in the event. Erkek stated that they envisaged changes in 84 articles and 9 titles of the constitution including legislative, executive, judiciary, fundamental rights and freedoms, and said, "What we are doing is a 'social contract draft'."
Erkek described the current presidential system as a “freak,” and said that they want to scrap the executive presidential system introduced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2018.
Other parties’ members of the same commission also talked about the changes that they proposed with this draft.
The leaders of the six parties later gathered for their ninth meeting, which was held at the Democrat Party headquarters in the capital Ankara.
Some of the major changes are indicated as follows in the 156-page long draft:
Executive and legislative reforms
- The electoral threshold will be reduced to 3% from 7%. Previously the Parliament on March 31 passed a law lowering the minimum required votes for a party to enter parliament to 7% from 10%.
- Sanction provisions on political parties will be changed according to the Council of Europe standards.
- Even if they have been pardoned, those who have been convicted of sexual assault, sexual abuse of children and deliberate injury to women will be prevented from being elected as lawmakers.
- Withdrawal from international agreements will be ensured as the primary authority of the Assembly. Thus, the President will not be able to decide to leave an international agreement on their own.
- Fundamental rights and freedoms will not be regulated by decrees of the Council of Ministers.
- The President's power to veto laws will be terminated, and this power will be limited to the power of repatriation. Returned laws will be able to be adopted by the Parliament with a simple majority.
- For a transparent and accountable executive, the instruments that will enable the government to be held accountable will be increased and made effective.
- As a requirement of stability, the parliament will only be able to overthrow the current government if it can unite in forming the new government. It will be mandatory to add the name of the new Prime Minister to the motions of no confidence filed against the Council of Ministers.
- The necessary majority in order to submit a motion for an investigation against the Prime Minister and the ministers will be reduced to lower numbers of deputies.
- A Final Account Committee will be established within the parliament. The Chair of the Committee will be from the main opposition party.
- All agents of the executive will take the instruction from the Constitution and laws, not from the President, while performing their duties.
- Presidents will be elected for one term and only seven years. The affiliation of the elected president with their party, if any, will be terminated.
- Instead of the Presidential Cabinet, there will be the Prime Ministry and the Council of Ministers, which will have political responsibility towards the Assembly.
- Ministers will be chosen by the Prime Minister from among the members of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey or from among Turkish citizens who are eligible to be elected as a member of parliament in case of need. As of now, the ministers are not elected but the president appoints them.
- The government will be formed by a simple majority, and an absolute majority will be needed to overthrow it.
- The President or the Council of Ministers will not have the authority to declare a state of emergency on their own. The authority to declare it will belong to the Council of Ministers, which convenes under the President.
- In order to prevent the state of emergency regime from turning into an arbitrary administration, the authority to issue a State of Emergency Decree will be terminated.
- Authority of local governments will be increased.
- In order to strengthen the independence of the members of the judiciary, two bodies will be organized as the Council of Judges and the Council of Prosecutors, instead of one supreme body as of now. As a requirement of the rule of law, the decisions of both councils will be subject to judicial review.
- The Constitutional Court will also be given the authority to examine and decide on the applications due to the actions of the legislative, executive and judicial organs that interfere with each other's field.
- The decisions of the High Election Board (YSK) may be the subject of individual applications to the Constitutional Court. As of now, YSK’s decisions are final and cannot be appealed.
Reforms on rights and liberties
- The belief and determination in building a democratic and liberal constitution against authoritarianism will be emphasized.
- The state will be obliged to prevent human rights violations and ensure that everyone enjoys rights.
- It will be determined as a constitutional principle that no one can be discriminated against because of their opinions.
- Arbitrary practices on freedom of the press will be brought to an end by assigning a duty to the state to form public opinion freely
- It will be noted that it is the duty of the state to protect the environment, to increase the quality of the environment.
- It will be stated that the state has a duty to protect natural life and animals and to take the necessary measures to prevent cruelty and ill-treatment towards animals.
Also the draft proposes that the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) will be abolished, and that the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) will work in accordance with the principles of autonomy and impartiality.
(English version by Alperen Şen)