— The Erimtan Angle —

Turkey has now been enjoying the fruits of the notorious 12 September coup for the past thirty years. In 1982 the military promulgated a new constitution which, in a somewhat circuitous fashion, ensured that the AKP would come to power 2002. In order to explain my perhaps somewhat confusing statement, let me quote what I wrote last summer: “Throughout the 1990s, many people over and again were wondering about the sudden rise of [Necmettin Erbakan and his overtly Islamist Refah Partisi] and why Islam had once again become a visible part of Turkey’s political discourse. One could argue that this increased visibility was due to the effects of the continuous and compulsory “[e]ducation and instruction in religion and ethics” during Turkish pupils’ school years, as stipulated in the military’s 1982 Constitution for the Secular Republic of Turkey . . .”.[1]  And now, let me spell it out in plain language. It would seem that citizens of Turkey taught the tenets of their religion during their education in school now feel more  at ease casting their ballots for an overtly pro-Islamic parties once endowed with the right to vote. In 1997, the Turkish Army intervened leading to a so-called post-modern coup: the ‘1997 military memorandum refers to the decisions issued by the Turkish Military leadership on a National Security Council meeting at 28 February 1997 which initiated the 28 February process that precipitated the resignation of prime minister Necmettin Erbakan of the Welfare Party [Refah Partisi or RP] and the end of his coalition government. As the Erbakan government was forced out without dissolving the parliament or suspending the constitution, the event has been labelled a “postmodern coup” by Salim Dervişoğlu’, as recounted by Wikipedia.[2]  The entry continues as follows: then-president Süleyman ‘Demirel appointed ANAP [Anavatan Partisi] leader Mesut Yılmaz to form the new government. He formed a new coalition government with Bülent Ecevit (DSP [or Demokratik Sol Partisi] leader) and Hüsamettin Cindoruk (the founder and the leader of DTP [Demokrat Türkiye Partisi], a party founded after 28 February Process by former DYP [Doğru Yol Partisi] members) on 30 June 1997. The Welfare Party [RP] was closed by the Constitutional Court in 1998. Necmettin Erbakan was banned from politics for 5 years and former MP members and mayors of RP joined the Virtue Party [Fazilet Partisi or FP]. Istanbul mayor, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from Virtue Party [FP] was given a prison sentence after he had read a nationalist and Islamist poet and he was banned from politics forever. In the 1999 general elections, The Virtue Party [FP] won many seats in the parliament but it was not as successful as the RP in the 1995 general elections. One of the MP members of the party was Merve Kavakçı who wore an Islamic headscarf’.[3]  In 1999, following frenzied expressions of Turkish nationalism upon the capture of Abdullah Öcalan (Apo), the leader of the terrorist group PKK, the electorate swept a left-right coalition to power under the guidance of the well-respected Ecevit. The DSP-MHP-ANAP coalition faired well, but then Ecevit’s frail health led to its premature demise and another election cycle in 2002: ‘Ecevit’s government undertook a number of reforms aimed at stabilizing the Turkish economy in preparation for accession negotiations with the European Union. However, the short-term economic pain brought on by the reforms caused rifts within his coalition and party, and eventually forced new elections in 2002. Ecevit, at this time visibly frail, was unsuccessful in leading his party back into the National Assembly. Ecevit subsequently retired from active politics in 2004’.[4]

The Wiki entry continues: ‘The Virtue Party [FP] was [eventually] also closed by the Constitutional Court in 2001 because of Merve Kavakçı’s [headscarfed] entrance to the parliament. Although former Istanbul mayor Erdoğan was banned from politics, he managed to form the Justice and Development Party [Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi or AKP], a reformist party that declared not to be a political party with a religious axis. The traditional Islamists formed the Felicity Party [Saadet Partisi or SP]’.[5]  The 2002 elections in Turkey marked a watershed in the nation’s political life: ‘Turkey’s 15th general election was held on November 3, 2002 following the collapse of the DSP-MHP-ANAP coalition led by Bülent Ecevit. It was won by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, producing a crushing majority in spite of their winning just 34.3% of the national vote. All parties previously elected to parliament failed to win enough votes to re-enter the Grand National Assembly. The only other party to cross the 10 percent election barrier was the Republican People’s Party, (CHP) which made a triumphant return after being voted out three years previously. The election produced Turkey’s first single party government since 1987 and the country’s first two-party parliament in 48 years’.[6]  Ten years later, the AKP is still in power and Tayyip Erdoğan has become the most popular politician of the Arab world. The past ten years have witnessed the formation of yet another one-party state, as had been the case between 1923-50 and again in the period 1950-60. Even though the above-quoted Wiki entry referred to the AKP as a “reformist party that declared not to be a political party with a religious axis”, Tayyip’s overt and explicit piety and invocation of Islamic imagery are beyond doubt. As a result, in Turkey, so-called secularists are nowadays constantly complaining about the current government and the dangers of the country turning into another Iran. As a result, it seems more than a little ironic that the government-sponsored Iranian news broadcaster Press TV recently published a piece on Turkey carrying the heading “Turkey under Erdogan leadership a semi-dictatorship”.[7]  In fact, the Press TV piece was referring to the words of the opposition politician Rıza Türmen who had declared on Wednesday, 9 May, that “We already live in a semi-dictatorship, so now are we going for a constitutional dictatorship?”,[8] in reference to Tayyyip’s intimations that Turkey could very well switch to a presidential system in future.

 The AKP is now in the process of making good on its election promise of introducing a new, civilian constitution to replace the 1982 Constitution that had been put in place by the military leadership. On Thursday, 10 May, VOA’s Dorian Jones reported that “Turkish members of parliament started writing a new constitution this week – a move seen as crucial to ending Turkey’s ties with its military past. But although there is consensus about the need for a new constitution, political divisions still threaten the process. The parliament has started to rewrite the 30-year national charter to replace a text passed two years after a 1980 military coup, reflecting big changes in a country now ruled by a moderate government”.[9]  Bahçeşehir University’s Cengiz Aktar declares quite optimistically that “It’s really a key moment in the history of the Turkish Republic. This country needs a new social contract which would describe the way it intends to go ahead and to make sure that all its constituencies will coexist and perform together without any of them feeling excluded, which is the case now”.[10]

In fact, writing in Today’s Zaman in December 2010, I suggested that “Bolivia’s plurinational experiment might very well constitute a template for Turkey in its search for viable solutions and peaceful cohabitation of Turks and Kurds in the common homeland on the peninsula bounded by the Black Sea to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the Aegean Sea to the west, and the sea of Marmara to the northwest. Could the DTK [Democratic Society Congress] proposal [, indicating “that the adoption of a “Democratic Autonomous Kurdistan Model” could be the way forward”] lead to a redefinition of the Republic of Turkey as a plurinational state, comprising a myriad of ethnic groups and subgroups? Some years ago, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan became the first Turkish leader to acknowledge the existence of a “Kurdish problem” and he subsequently went a step further, suggesting that Turkish citizens could possess an ethnic sub- and a political supra-identity — having an ethnic background of Kurdish, Laz or different descent and a political identity as a Turk, or a citizen of the Republic of Turkey. Could we see a future where Turkey will be the first plurinational state of the Middle East and Europe? Or, will the Kurdish issue remain unresolved and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq the only enclave where Kurds will be Kurds?”.[11]  In my piece, I referred to Bolivia’s Evo Morales and his “new constitution [for Bolivia], enacted on Feb. 7, 2009, [which] calls Bolivia a plurinational and secular state and [constitutes] the first legal framework in the world that has fully recognized the rights of indigenous peoples to the detriment of the nation-state”.[12]

In his VOA piece  Jones explains further that “Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the document – to be completed by year’s end – would ‘highlight the citizen, not the state’. Civil society groups, religious organizations and citizens have been asked to contribute to the drafting process of a more liberal constitution. The country’s main legal Kurdish party, the BDP, is also taking part”.[13]  Will Turkey emerge as a plurinational state or as a multi-religious nation or as a renewed and revived unitary Turkish and Muslim entity at the end of the current constitutional process???

[1] “The Turkish Army: Guardian of Turkish Secularism???” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (09 August 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/the-turkish-army-guardian-of-turkish-secularism/.

[2] “1997 military memorandum (Turkey)” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1997_military_memorandum_(Turkey).

[3] “1997 military memorandum (Turkey)”.

[4] “Bülent Ecevit” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%BClent_Ecevit.

[5] “Bülent Ecevit”.

[6] “Turkish general election, 2002” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkish_general_election,_2002.

[7] “Turkey under Erdogan leadership a semi-dictatorship: Lawmaker” Press TV (10 May 2012). http://www.presstv.ir/detail/240450.html.

[8] “Turkey under Erdogan leadership a semi-dictatorship: Lawmaker”.

[9] Dorian Jones, “Turkey Begins Drafting New Constitution” VOA News (10 May 2012). http://www.voanews.com/english/news/europe/Turkey-Begins-Drafting-New-Constitution-150973095.html.

[10] Dorian Jones, “Turkey Begins Drafting New Constitution”.

[11] C. Erimtan, “A unitary or a plurinational state? A new Turkish constitution to resolve the Kurdish issue?” Today’s Zaman (26 December 2010). http://tiny.cc/ke6e7.

[12] C. Erimtan, “A unitary or a plurinational state?”.

[13] Dorian Jones, “Turkey Begins Drafting New Constitution”.


Comments on: "Turkey’s New Constitution: 1982-2012" (2)

  1. Thanks for the education. I will read this more closely and perhaps say more. But it is interesting to learn about Turkey.


    • sitanbul said:

      You are more than welcome and I am looking forward to reading your no doubt incisive further commentary . . .

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