Turkish presidential advisory board member calls for religious constitution

Presidential High Advisory Board member İsmail Kahraman called for a religious constitution, as he defended the removal of unamendable articles from the charter.

Duvar English 

Presidential High Advisory Board (YİK) member İsmail Kahraman, a long-time Islamist politician, has said that the Turkish constitution should be changed into a religious one. 

Kahraman, who was a controversial figure during his tenure as parliament speaker from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), also defended the exclusion of unamendable articles, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Oct. 3. 

According to the 80-year-old politician, the parliamentary system and secularism - in place since the founding of the Turkish Republic - are incompatible with democracy. Rather, he says, Turkey should adopt a religious constitution that can be changed at the “will of the people.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been calling for a new constitution in Turkey. In February, he said that the current constitution, adopted in 1982 after the military coup of 1980, contained the “indelible” marks of “military tutelage.” He said the new constitution should be a “civilian” one.

“Perhaps the time has come for Turkey to debate a new constitution,” Erdoğan said in February. “This work must be conducted in front of the people and through the participation of all of their representatives in a transparent manner, and the text that emerges must be presented to the people for their approval.”

Kahraman echoed this sentiment in his interview with Anadolu Agency. 

“Immutable articles should not be included in the constitution. They should be able to be changed at the will of the people,” Kahraman said, “In order to fulfill the requirements of democracy, the people need to come together to govern themselves and make a decision. The parliamentary system is incompatible with democracy.”

In February, the president encouraged all political parties to draft new versions of the constitution - the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), part of the People’s Alliance with the AKP, voiced support for the plan. The MHP submitted its 100-page draft in May; the AKP says their draft will be ready by early 2022. This all comes as the People's Alliance is losing national support in the lead-up to the 2023 election.

Kahraman condemned the secularism central to the Turkish constitution and called for one that was shorter, more concise, and shaped to the will of the people. He particularly emphasized the need for a constitution that incorporates religion. 

“There are only five constitutions in the world that contain secularism as a principle. In five of 195 countries, secularism is named as a principle. France is the only country in which that means no religion. In the rest of them, a constitution exists that is compatible with religion,” he said.

He also emphasized that previously drafted constitutions - as well as the current constitutions - already make space for religious principles and institutions. Turkey is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the president of the organization is Turkish, and Kahraman believes that Turkey’s constitution should reflect that affiliation.

“It is very wrong to act as if we are outside of the environment in which we find ourselves,” he said.