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Erdoğan urges parliament to draft new constitution

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Monday that Turkey cannot continue with its existing constitution, urging parliament to draft a new charter as a “national duty.”

Speaking on the anniversary of a military coup in 1960, Erdoğan emphasized his administration’s repeated exposure to coup attempts.

He commemorated former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, who was executed following the 1960 coup.

Menderes was tried and hanged one year after the military staged a coup in 1960 to put Turkey back on a more secular course.

Erdoğan survived a putsch attempt against his own Islamic-rooted government in 2016.

“This nation will remember Menderes and his companions with the shame of not being able to prevent their executions,” he said.

“In Turkey, sovereignty unconditionally belongs to the nation. We recognize no power above the national will. With a new constitution, we aim to further advance this.”

He criticized the current constitution, saying it was imposed by elites and failed to reflect the national will. He noted the 1961 and 1982 constitutions were products of military regimes and lacked genuine public consent.

“Our people voted ‘yes’ to these constitutions merely to rid the country of the coup leaders,” he said.

Erdoğan argued that the constitutional amendments made to date have been insufficient. He insisted that a constitution drafted without broad consensus and consideration of public opinion is inherently flawed and crisis-prone.

“The same root cause underlies the tensions and disputes we encounter, from political debates to judicial conflicts,” Erdoğan said.

He attributed recent tensions between the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Constitutional Court over a ruling to flaws in the existing constitution.

Turkey has witnessed a judicial crisis sparked by the imprisonment of an opposition lawmaker, who was kept behind bars despite two favorable decisions from the Constitutional Court.

The Supreme Court of Appeals, which upheld an 18-year sentence for lawmaker Can Atalay in a politically motivated trial, refused to act in line with the Constitutional Court’s decisions and filed criminal complaints against the members of the top court due to their ruling, a first in the judicial history of Turkey.

Atalay was eventually stripped of his parliamentary status this year in defiance of the successive rulings by the Constitutional Court.

“We must accept certain realities. We cannot continue with a constitution reflecting elite consensus. We cannot subject our nation to this disgrace any longer,” Erdoğan said.

He expressed confidence in the parliament’s ability to draft a new constitution, saying, “I believe it is a national duty.”

Turkey currently has a constitution that was drafted in the aftermath of a military coup in 1980. The 1982 Constitution has been amended numerous times but is still criticized for being far from democratic and liberal.

Over the past several months Erdoğan and officials from his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have discussed the need for a new constitution; however, critics say Erdoğan is far from allowing the people to enjoy even the freedoms granted by the current constitution. They argue that Erdoğan’s push for a new constitution could be aimed at diverting attention from more pressing socio-economic issues and consolidating power under the guise of reform.

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