The last process of drafting a constitution, which took place between 2011 and 2013, is a good example of how social conflicts in Turkey are tied into conflict around the constitution.
After the parliamentary election in 2011 all the political forces agreed on the need for a new constitution. Despite having seen a number of "repairs" since its establishment – the product of multiple constitutional amendments – the old constitution was no longer regarded as a viable foundation for the Turkish political system.
A new constitutional process was set in motion. It was supposed to be a counter-model to the previous processes, which had been initiated by the military and were not participatory. A Constitutional Commission, the Anayasa Uzlaşma Komisyonu (AUK, parliamentary constitutional commission) was established: Three members of each of the four parliamentary parties (AKP, CHP, MHP und BDP) were provided with equal representation. Additionally, different social groups and institutions were allowed to participate: A website enabled universities, labour unions, NGOs, and citizens to submit proposals for the new constitution. All over the country events were organized at which citizens were able to present and discuss their own suggestions. The protocols of the Commission were published and made accessible to everyone.
Such a high level of participation and inclusion throughout the constitutional process is often regarded as an important condition to ensure that the written constitution itself will also be democratic. For the time being, however, the attempts to pass a new constitution in Turkey have failed. The members of the constitutional commission, who would have had to unanimously accept every article, could not agree on some of the central matters. The commission gave up work after two years in November 2013 and was subsequently dissolved.
Our project is particularly interested in the reasons for this failure. The fact that the constitutional process in Turkey has been this well-documented makes it an even more attractive and fascinating research subject – especially since these processes are normally hidden behind closed doors. In the Turkish case, protocols of the commission, suggestions for change made by civic organizations, media reports, but also caricatures that comment on the struggle for a new constitution in a humorous and critical way make up a wide field of research. Caricatures have a long tradition in Turkey and even scoff at delicate issues that are otherwise rarely found in the daily press.
In August 2014 the former Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was elected President. After the election, he declared his intention to be a strong "executive" president. As the current constitution provides little room to do so, it is assumed that he will try to change the constitution and introduce a presidential system. In order to single-handedly establish a new constitution, he will need an absolute majority of the AKP at the next parliamentary election in June 2015.
Erdoğan's thirst for power and the political events of the last months – such as the corruption scandal – are also commented on in caricatures.
Anayasa = Constitution
Constitutional Commission "I have a suggestion for the new constitution"
„Uff, that's enough, nothing else crossing my mind..."