In 2022, a new constitution has become one of the main discussions in the Turkish Politics when it was put on the agenda of both the opposition parties and the government. The need for a new constitution just four years after the change in the constitution for the Presidential Government System indicates how strong search for alternatives is in the Turkish politics. Hence, the government also leaves the door open to the discourse of modifications in the current system and that many articles of the declaration announced by the six opposition parties are within the scope of the Constitution as well.
Although the government and/or the opposition parties push for a new constitution with different motivations and goals, it is possible to claim that objective conditions for the need for a new constitution exist.
This study will attempt to make framework proposals for a new constitution, which will meet today’s needs and have the vision for the future based on past experiences and taking into account the above mentioned objective conditions. The study objective is to investigate social, political and economic aspects of the need for a new constitution, confront with and discuss the first century and contribute to the development of a new constitution to build the second century in a more comprehensive and pluralist manner. Accordingly, the study intends to develop several proposal frameworks based on the review of 1921 Constitution.
The philosopher, literary critic and cultural historian Walter Benjamin explains why the angel of history’s face is turned to past in the painter Paul Klee’s painting Angelus Novus: “The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead and make whole what has been smashed…” This making whole, re-introducing the past into today’s life, relying on the foundership of the excluded, consideration of past as savings of today can meet the need of the Turkish people for a new constitution and with local history and culture, allow it to be in harmony both with today/future and with what is universal.
In 2022, acknowledgement by the political institutions of the Turkish public’s need for a new constitution indicates an important threshold. Why does a society need a new constitution?
According to its etymology, constitution means action of establishing, creation. A constitution is the rules of co-existing for a public at a specific location at a specific time based on this concept. A constitution is not just to establish the state but also the society. Thus, both society-state relations and relations between citizens are defined in accordance with the constitution.
Although the need for a constitution is always about time-location, a constitution regulates state-society-people relations. On the other hand, a constitution demonstrates the political philosophy of the state. The reasons why constitutions have been needed throughout history are to limit/control the government and to establish a predictable living environment with set rules.
Since Magna Carta every constitution approved by people has relied on protecting the society and achieving balance-control in state-society-people relations in line with the limited government concept and regulated mechanisms to control public works especially monetary resources. When making a constitution, mutual relations in the state-society-people triangle are regulated.
The main reason for a need for a new constitution at a specific time and location is to re-establish power balances maintained with balance-control networks between the government and the society. Sometimes the government wants to renew the constitution to have more powers while other times social-political powers, thinking that balance and control networks have weakened, attempt to re-establish power balances.
Pursuit of a new constitution in Turkey today indicates a situation where both of the above examples are valid. While the government represents the will to reinforce the excessive central management system and to have its authoritarian regime approved more with the new constitution, the opposition represents the will to have a limited government and pursuit of a constitution that will lead to forming of a rule-based and predictable system. Therefore pursuit of social contract continues.
While these pursuits sometimes revolve around current ideas, in some cases historical references could be the inspiration for political ideas. In this context, the 1921 Constitution which represents an exception in the political and constitutional history of Turkey has the potential to offer alternatives to the authoritarian momentum in today’s Turkey with some of its content. Thus, correct integration of this potential in the political agenda and strategy in 2022 will make it possible to create the right approval from the society.
CONSTITUTION IN TURKEY
Although constitutions can be categorized as primary source/secondary source, rigid/flexible in terms of legal technicality, being a social contract, they typically regulate the rules of living together and the rules of limited government. A constitution builds the framework of daily life, and laws draw the picture inside this framework. Therefore report will discuss not the legal technicality of the constitution but its social-historical function. Because first comes the politics and political decision which creates the law.
The first example of a modern constitution is the Constitution of the US in 1787. The Ottoman Basic Law (Kanun-i Esasi) dated 1876 in the Ottoman Empire was the 14th constitution in the world. This constitution which meant that the Sultan shared the power and discussed citizen equality albeit at a very basic level was developed in line with the global trends and national political demands of that period. This constitution which was amended and suspended many times remained effective until the Turkish Republic of Turkey was declared.
1921 Constitution was a product of the Turkish War of Independence. Since we will discuss this in detail later, we can continue with the 1924 Constitution and following constitutions. 1924 Constitution is the first constitution of the Republic of Turkey.
This constitution which had central government in its core was designed with authoritarian modernization in mind. This design was continued in later constitutions in 1961 and 1982.
The 1961 Constitution was enacted following the coup d’état. It was against the Democratic Party which had become more authoritarian especially since 1953 and also affected by global econo-political and socio-political trends in 1960s. The 1961 Constitution which created many balancing and control institutions, most notably the Constitutional Court left its mark by establishing a bicameral system. This constitution which secured fundamental rights and freedoms in parallel to the global politics witnessed the most colourful and versatile period of Turkish politics.
Oil crisis and reaching to the limits of social welfare state resulted in capitalism looking for alternatives. Neoliberal policies implemented with the coalition of the USA and the UK spread fast globally, especially to the countries which were allies of the USA. For the neoliberal policies that were effective in Turkey, the iconic date for the economy was January 24, 1980. The January 24 resolutions taken under the leadership of the prime minister Turgut Özal aimed for full integration of Turkey into neoliberal policies. However political instability and tension started in 1970s with repercussions in 1980s jeopardized integration into neoliberalism. In order to implement neoliberalism in political and social arena, the country had to wait for the 1980 coup d’état and the regime built following the coup.
From the date of the coup d’état until a multi-party system was restored, the military government enacted 838 laws which included 669 laws, 90 decree laws, 76 National Security Council (MGK) resolutions and 3 MGK announcements to form the basic features of the government system.
1961 and 1982 constitutions were both primary sources since each of them was enacted after a coup d’état. After September 12, 1982 there have been 19 amendments in the constitution mostly for harmonization with the European Union. These 19 amendments and other constitution amendments which started in 2007 and ended in 2017 with the change in the government system are all derivatives of the primary source.
Accepted with the plebiscite on April 16, 2017 and established with the Presidential election done together with parliamentary election on June 24, 2018 the Presidential Government System made the first change in the government system since 1924 Constitution and distributed political power again -by making it more centralized – and reshaped the regime.
It has been almost four years since the Presidential Government System became effective. The government system has not brought a social, economic and political harmony and advantage but instead brought separation and disadvantage.
As of 2022 which is the fourth year with the Presidential Government System, we are in a country where social disintegration has gone deeper and redefined with cultural-moral codes, economic crisis has been worsened due to both the authoritarian regime and decision making authorities structured by the system and democratic politics is based on friend-foe dilemma forcing it out of political area.
A new constitution is the hope of bringing again together all cultural and social parts of the society regardless of their identity or class without any polarization. With the power of this hope, all parts of the society in Turkey now demand a new constitution.
It is not possible to discuss the new constitution which all parts of the society will own, strictly as a matter of identity/culture/class. On the contrary the new constitution can ensure social legitimacy by taking all differences into consideration. On the other hand, including the effects of the current government style of the country on economic, political and social life into the equation will reinforce the demand for a new constitution.
Therefore pursuit for a new constitution in Turkey should be discussed based on the economic, political and social realities of the country within the last four years. Without getting lost in too much detail and according to a couple of reliable research and indicators, as of 2022;
Econo-political: in the midst of a crisis!
In Turkey a multi-dimensional economic crisis with macro and micro-indicators including poverty, unemployment has been going on for years and worsened with the pandemic.
- Between June 23, 2018 (when the Presidential Government System was officially adopted) and October 2022:
- The number of unemployed people rose from 3 million 57 thousand to 7,6 million,
- The exchange rate for USD increased from 4.71 to 18,4 TL,
- CDS Premium from 315 points to 750 points,
- Hunger threshold of a four-person family increased from 1,714 TL to 6,889 TL.
- Most of the public enterprises including those that were transferred to the Turkish Sovereign Wealth Fund are making a loss.
- According to the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, Turkey has placed in 96th among 180 countries as of 2021.
According to the report published by the International Finance Institute, Turkey was at the top of the list with the highest increase in bankruptcies and came second in the increase in debt ratio in the world.
Presidential Government System has worsened the economic crisis by centralizing decision making processes in one person and by-passing balancing-control mechanisms.
On the other hand it should be highlighted that the crisis in Turkey develops differently from global developments. It is a unique crisis caused by national politics with no involvement of the world.
Because this system does not provide any political predictability in any area most notably in finance capital, and this increases the risk causing profit realization at high levels. For example, short term foreign investments which the Turkish economy needs most can only be realized when there is a possibility of high return due to low level of legal and political predictability and the centralization in resolution processes. The government offers more privileges for investors to make this risk appealing for them which lead to dispossession, higher taxes, higher inflation etc for the Turkish society.
Society and politics: polarization leading to disintegration!
The study “on the Magnitude of Polarization in Turkey” done by Migration Studies Implementation and Research Centre of Istanbul Bilgi University in 4 thousand and 6 people who represent the population over the age of 18 in 29 cities shows the alarming level of polarization in Turkey. Fifty two percent of the respondents of the study think that differences in opinions and behaviours of people in Turkey have increased. According to the study AKP and MHP supporters believe that they are superior to the others in the society while HDP supporters feel more ostracized. Fifty five percent of HDP supporters report that they are treated badly during job interviews, 50% report that they are treated badly in police stations, 40% report that they are treated badly in universities, 38% report that they are treated badly in hospitals or high end stores and 32 % report that they are treated badly on the street. The places they report that they are treated worse than CHP supporters are job interviews with 22 percent, police stations with 18 percent and public offices with 17 percent.
The “Study on the Magnitude of Polarization in Turkey 2020” conducted by TurkuazLab in 2020 also demonstrates that polarization has climbed up to alarming levels in Turkey. 74.9% of the respondents do not want their children to marry supporters of another party and 66.6% of the respondents do not want their children to be friends with people who support other parties. Similarly, 60.8% of the respondents do not want to be neighbours with someone who supports the party they oppose the most.
Based on the findings of these studies; as of 2022;
- It is possible to claim that social polarization is about the reach to two thirds super majority.
- Polarization can be claimed to be fostered with the friend or foe argument created by the government.
Since the government creates its politics based on onto-epistemological approach such as survival of the state, separation, representation of the nation, this removes politics from being an arena of dialogue, different solution proposals and activity and criminalizes the different by encouraging uniformity. This political style divides the society and worsens polarization. This is without doubt connected with the 50+1 election rule for the Presidential Government System.
Governance structure that provided basis for authoritarianism
With the 1924 Constitution, the Republic of Turkey had a governance structure that strengthened central government and provided the tools to recreate it. This governance structure led to the development of mainly two characteristics.
First, right wing, authoritarian political views were included in the democracy discourse and obtained social approval despite their incomplete understanding of democracy. Second, taboos that legitimize authoritarian responses to public, political and social right demands were created leading to the blocking of public actions and communication. Pluralism and democracy approach of the 1921 Constitution of the Republic of Turkey was abandoned with the constitution in 1924. Following constitutions had the letter and spirit of the 1924 constitution and made strong connections with authoritarianism and right wing politics and created hostility between the state and society leading to the legitimacy that allows pressure on objections in the society using taboos such as “survival” and even more importantly majority of the population become silenced to this pressure. Thus, central government as the governance structure allowing authoritarian policies has always been at the core of political regime discussion in Turkey. On the other hand the 1921 constitution, with the pluralism approach of its political will and local governments and strength of the parliament, is a good reference for the governance structure for Turkey in 2022.
Over-centralization equates community involvement in the government with the ballot box and this makes the right wing and authoritarian leaders and parties believe that democracy is only about elections and votes. With this approach right authoritarian political parties acquire their social legitimacy through elections/voting systems and “populism based on national will”.
Therefore, instead of crowning the new republic with democracy in 1924, combining central government and sacredness of the state mottos allowed room for manoeuvre for right-authoritarian political views and to have approval. However pluralism and democracy with local governments in the 1921 Constitution led to socialization of the Republic.
With these contexts, both being in a middle of an economic crisis and a society polarized to the extent that the common future vision has become vague and the fact that over-centralized government structure for over a hundred years produces authoritarian trends makes it an imperative for the Turkish people to define today and create shared visions. Although identifying the damage caused by the Presidential Government System and designing a transitioning phase is essentially an argument about the method, it also affects the content when determining the way the new constitution will take.
The New Constitution will not only affect the society but also lead the way for the evolution of the state. In other words, the direction of this new constitution will not only design a legally binding text but also include a message about what kind of future the Turkish public will have. In this way, the new constitution will provide a framework of solutions both for real politics such as excessively polarized social structure due to the Presidential Government System and for historical, social, political issues including most notably the Kurdish problem. Development of a new constitution in current conditions is at the top of the list of requirements both for Realpolitik and for the problems which have deteriorated for the worst since 2018. Because Presidential Government System ties “legislative” power which is the reflection of popular sovereignty on the government and “judicial” power which is the feeling of justice that enables people to live together as a society to the executive power which both pacifies popular sovereignty and undermines state-society trust relations and co-existence. Considering the fact that Presidential Government System was built on separation of powers which was not enforced in the first century and incomplete democracy and made its powers permanent using the tools of that century, having the 50+1 election rule to be in power caused it to rely more on fusion of powers and anti-democracy. Therefore access to government power which was made to be complete with the fusion of powers was possible with access to absolute majority. Political approach based on common good and general welfare was replaced by the race to be in power.
Thus instead of creating and organizing series of norms that cover the general public, politics was defined as a war zone where those with absolute power were identified.
In this sense politics with the Presidential Government System, instead of epistemological plane which allows the society to generate information and provide common and public good, is based on ontological plane which includes certainty and emphasis on its existence and continuum and values pluralism.
Need for a New Constitution
There are three factors that inspire a new constitution for policy-makers. The first one is the political legacy in the country. The second one is the distinct characteristics of global trends. And the third one is the ability of the constitution to respond to current and/or cyclical econo-politic and socio-politic problems. Consideration of these three factors is a must for a constitution vision which can have the approval and carry the society into the future.
Both national and international developments were in a critical stage and different social classes in the country were involved in the politics and therefore the period leading to the 1921 constitution is deserved to be discussed today.
In 1921 different parts of the society got together to start the transformation from constitutional monarchy which was authoritarian and over-strengthened the power of the sultan to republic and achieved a social contract by codifying ongoing war of independence. Because there was a need for a contract that was a primary source back then as it is needed now. This demand did not come from the top like in 1924, 1961 and 1982 but from the bottom, from the people who actually fought the war of independence.
Before the 1921 Constitution, just like with Presidential Government System today, the parliament became non-functional and needed to re-establish its reputation with the steps it would take. That period marked the time when nation-states were spreading like wild-fire and national boundaries and markets were formed therefore representing a distinct period for the political history. Again the parallelism between the start of the war of independence and the acceleration of nation-states after the World War I ended should be interpreted with the help of Wilson Principles which was the perfect guidance for that period. Such an interpretation will both find the political mind that catches the global trend and understand the importance of the global trend for the national design.
With regard to similarity in history, we are going through times where neoliberalism is choked, globalization supporters in the globalization-nationalism dilemma are getting stronger and have the potential to design politics.
As a reflection of this momentum, global discussions such as the Great Reset are happening and a quest for the right path continues. Within the framework of this quest, sustainability of neoliberalism as both an economic and socio-political project has started to be debated. The extent of such a quest has grown due to many reasons including greed for profit which harms the environment, inequality in distribution of income, socio-political problems becoming permanent which leads to un-democratic reflexes. With the Covid-19 pandemics, this quest has acquired new dimensions. Indeed since these quests require not only re-structuring of the economy but also re-organizing socio-political arena and environment-people-capital relationships, they lead the way for more structured economic and political changes.
This political process becomes visible with the solutions planned by the capitalists such as the Great Reset to continue with capitalism but also with the rise of objections and identity struggles for social movements to reinforce democracy. Therefore as of 2022, we are in a different global political process with the cross-border effects of the Ukraine War, the Democracy Summit, the renewal of the Atlantic Pact and many other developments.
The similarity between today and 1920s is that the central government is over-demanding about having all power balances in its favour. Although organizational visions and mechanisms are different in these two periods, the similarity lies in the will to destroy the power balance. In order to keep the Ottoman Empire alive which was collapsing in 1920s, the Sultan relied on the Islamism project and positioned himself as the absolute ruler of this project.
With this it was claimed that the Islamic world would unite around the Ottoman Empire and the Sultan and religion came before social contract in the nation. As an opposition to this, a movement which was organized locally and then combined and designed with the central government, Republic, parliament concepts was started. The 1921 Constitution was enacted to achieve a power balance for the “populism line” against sultanism line. A global vision which is in line with the realities of the Second Century and the need for a renewed and reinforced social contract is revealed with the discussions about constitution and promotes the feelings about the necessity for this change.
Without applying reductionism in history, we can consider the 1921 Constitution as a historical legacy with which econo-political and socio-political grounds were similar to today. Of course, the goal is not to copy this constitution which was developed according to the Realpolitik of that period but it is possible to represent some of the frameworks included in this constitution and own the historical legacy to find the right path. Therefore it is better to call it the 1921 Constitution 2.0.
Such source of inspiration will be useful because it will require rethinking of the failures of the Republic of Turkey in its first century, intensified problems and solution proposals to these problems.
1921 CONSTITUTION 2.0
Before discussing the contribution of 1921 Constitution 2.0 discussion to today’s pursuit for a new constitution it is best to remember the process that led to the original 1921 constitution.
The 1921 Constitution was a very modern constitution for that period. With this constitution state-society relations were built in a modern way and the constitution was Turkey’s answer to global popularity of constitutions. On the other hand this constitution represented a brand new constitution based on the sovereignty of the nation in line with the global trends. Therefore it showed a new state with a sharp transformation in the history of constitutions.
This new state was structured as a unitary state just as in all other states with a central government. Unitary is derived from the Latin word “unitas”. Unitarism was identified with oneness and sameness in the political area of the Republic that was shaped after the 1924 Constitution. Especially when building a national identity, oneness and sameness is the testament to define unity. However ensuring a unity between oneness and sameness leaves the door open for authoritarian views. Instead defining unity as the alliance of differences is necessary for democracy.
The way to do this is to “unite” under the state umbrella and to create mutual commitments to become a unity with the constitution. In other words, unitary in building a national identity was confined to a sameness and oneness perspective. In fact ensuring the unity of plurality in the Turkish society – which is one way to make plurality a society – where there are many different identities and cultures is important to realize a modern political approach that respects identities and to minimize polarization.
The reference text for the 1921 Constitution which is considered as a modern constitution for the unity of plurality was the Populism Statement which was written by Mustafa Kemal. The Statement stood as the backbone of the 1921 Constitution as mentioned by Mustafa Kemal in A Speech (Nutuk); and exposed the cognitive, spiritual and philosophical essence of the 1921 Constitution.
The Populism Program started to be discussed on November 18, 1920 under the name “Teşkilat-ı Esasiye Lahiyası” and accepted as the “1921 Constitution” on January 20, 1921. In ‘Nutuk’ Mustafa Kemal made the following comments about the 1921 Constitution: “Dear Gentlemen, the Constitution whose main articles were given in this telegram was adopted by the Parliament only ten days ago on January 20, 1921.This is the first law that determines and regulates the status and powers and design and properties of the Assembly and the national government.” Additionally in ‘Nutuk’ Mustafa Kemal pointed to the program on which the Constitution was based: “Gentlemen, one week before these explanations, I presented a project to the Assembly. Dated September 13, 1920 this program which summarizes political, social, governmental and military perspectives and includes decisions about government organizations was read during the September 18, 1920 session of the Assembly. The first Constitution adopted four months later was based on that program.” Although it should be accepted as a secondary source of law in terms of legal technicality, the 1921 Constitution is a first Constitution, a primary sovereignty and a new social contract in the political arena.
This political background which provided the basis for this first constitution and a new social contract, in other words the 1921 Constitution stemmed from the convention of the structures which are named as Local Congress Governments by Bülent Tanör. This process continued until the meeting of the Grand National Assembly (BMM) and played a role in the development of the 1921 Constitution.
Three characteristics of the 1921 Constitution stand out. The first one was the importance attributed to decentralization, the second one was inclusion of different identities in the BMM and the third one was its ability to create a unique position within global power balances. With these three characteristics the 1921 Constitution became the social contract of independence making the collective war possible.
The 1921 Constitution stipulated strong local governments since it brought together local congress governments. The idea of decentralization has never been included in any constitution after the 1921 Constitution. Fourteen articles out of 24 articles of the 1921 Constitution were about decentralization/local governments. During the discussions of the articles regulating local governments, there was a heated debate by some parliament members that the change for “full” autonomy between the constitution draft and adopted constitution could result in independence. Due to these concerns, the expression “full” was deleted from the draft. Even General Inspectorships were regulated in the Constitution to act as barriers to prevent “full” autonomy. Despite the above, we can say that local governments/bodies were a primary and general structure because they were legal entities whose management was appointed through elections and were authorized to take and implement executive decisions according to their latest version in the Constitution. This primary and general structure was secured legally with the 1921 Constitution with its powers and potential to execute in many areas and given a primary status. Taha Parla described the articles about local governments in the 1921 Constitution as “an almost federalist approach”. Concerns of political decision makers with multiple identities of that period were taken into consideration and limited -central -government was achieved by reinforcing local governments. At the same time measures against over-powering of local governments were also taken to achieve a balance to maintain a unitary state. Therefore central-local government relations were made functional within the balance networks.
Two things should be emphasized to understand the 1921 Constitution. The first one is that the BMM which made the first constitution was composed of a wide variety of identities.
This pluralism was filtrated into the content and spirit of the Constitution. The other one was the fact the global power balances were observed when making the Constitution and both in the Popularism Statement and in the 1921 Constitution a balance between Soviet and capitalist world balance was kept. In this sense a Constitution which acknowledged plurality in the country and created a unique position in the global power relations was enacted. Additionally, this unique position was complemented with the Parliament and the Constitution in line with the growing popularity of constitutions.
The 1921 Constitution can be criticised for many things: for homogenizing most of the social identities with the Muslim population, for being designed as the Parliament government, for not being accepted as a primary source despite the support of Mustafa Kemal. On the other hand the changes that the Populism Statement went through such as “establishment of inspectorship” which could be considered a step backward in democracy while transforming into the 1921 Constitution and failure to execute
the constitution should be discussed from other perspectives. Therefore it would be useful to consider the 1921 Constitution as a “reference for potentials” to intervene with the current political agenda without idealizing it and consider the framework proposals of this Constitution together with their criticism.
1921 Constitution 2.0 in the Second Century and historical sources for actual interventions
In the past hundred years, Turkey and its people have witnessed interruptions in democracy, chaos and deepening political, economic and social problems. A political line which is based on political legacy, includes global trends in the policy making processes and looks for solutions to current/cyclical problems is needed to make a democratic constitution under the shadow of the past. Because polarization in the society in Turkey has reached to a level where it must be corrected and bells have started to toll for populist leaders all around the world. Additionally, neoliberalism crisis has become unsustainable and current/cyclical problems have reached to a point where they must be resolved with internal pressures and with the effect of changes outside the country.
The 1921 Constitution 2.0 can be laid down on table one time because it offers an alternative government system and this system calls for a democratic regime, and has a positive alliance with global trends and has a potential to be the solution to current/cyclical problems. Therefore,
With regard to the global trend
The global trend shows that the rising popularity of populist leaders since 2008 may go down because these leaders cannot keep the promises they give to their people. On the other hand populist leaders who are the symbols of over-centralization have failed in the Covid-19 pandemic. In democratic countries where powers and authorities are shared with local governments, civil society is involved in the development and implementation of policies, there has been a stronger fight against the pandemic and its effects. Populist leaders like in the USA and Turkey where local powers are bypassed to have all the authority and power in the centre especially during the pandemic, have not been able to manage the effects of the pandemic on health and economy and while this bottleneck was partially removed with the extensive authorities of local governments in the USA, the system in Turkey has been completely blocked. For example response timing and tools to respond of overcentralized governments to natural disasters and pandemics have increased financial and social costs of such disasters and pandemics. On the other hand as the locality level increased, needs were more correctly identified and solidarity networks became stronger and decision making times became shorter. Blocking of municipalities that are run by opposition parties in their pandemic aid to the people in proportion to the success of such aid programs has demonstrated that extreme right governments could cost a lot to the society when they act for their political interest.
During the pandemic, democratic and participatory regimes have become more successful by sharing the pandemic management process based on science with non-governmental organizations and professional societies whereas non-democratic regimes have used oppressive methods disguised as pandemic measures. Comparison of China and Germany is quite important in this sense. Both countries have powerful local governments. These two countries one of which has a democratic and the other has an authoritarian regime have had effective policies against the spread of the pandemic and the economy and health of all parts of the society have been protected against the pandemic. However China, due to its authoritarian regime reinforced its policies for supervised and disciplined society and did not take any measures to protect identities that are different from the official identity. Safety measures in Germany did not suspend basic rights; and economy and general health of the public has been effectively protected.
When we include Turkey into the comparison of Germany and China for centralism and authoritarianism, we see that the pandemic process has not been managed well, processes that were well managed locally have been intervened due to political motives, objections towards the government have been oppressed with the excuse of pandemic measures and control networks have been widened.
Therefore Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated very clearly the need to limit central government, showed that social life is tested with processes too important to leave to the hands of populist leaders and that identification of needs and solidarity at a local scale are more effective.
Representation of plurality and transfiguration of polarization into politics
After 1980, a wide range and multiple identities have become more publicly visible in the global and Turkish politics and been increasing the level of legitimacy of demands for their rights. Therefore a government system and political-legal rules are needed to represent all identities in the parliament in a fair and just way.
A parliament which represents all identities can ensure that social polarization which is one of the most important current/cyclical problems is resolved as the centre of plurality. The parliament which the public has approved to for a long time in the Turkish political history can become the centre of politics and allow the politics restore its reputation.
Considering that the main political characteristic which makes the 1921 Constitution a primary source was the pluralist structure of the BMM which represented all classes in the society, in a highly polarized society it is necessary to resort back to the 1921 Constitution to trace back to the solution and think about the plurality which makes this constitution a “first constitution”.
Balance and control networks
In 1921 the indicator of being a modern state was to have a constitution and a parliament. Today’s agenda is to reinforce balance and control networks, to reinforce democracy beyond elections and have it applied by the public. In this regard, ways to include non-governmental organizations and professional societies as equal stakeholders to take the balance-control networks out of the organizations/elites, elected government/national will dilemma. Therefore civil society can be included in the balance and control networks as equal stakeholders and elected government/national will, organizations/elites political discourse will become a floating identifier and balance and control can be ensured legally-rationally.
One of the main problems is to limit government which is focused on one person both in the first and second centuries. Limited government was realized by putting an emphasis on the parliament in the first century and the separation of powers was used in the following processes. We are facing a similar problem while we are entering the second century. Faced with this problem, it is necessary to strengthen the parliament
and not to shape separation of powers according to the sharing of powers in elections. On the other hand, local governments which have a key role for limitation of central government must be considered one more time in the unitary structure.
Local governments as a multiple and common good
Local management /decentralization is done by limiting central government including unitarism powered by the local people thus stands out as a strong balance-control mechanism.
Limitation effort just with the Constitutional Court and higher government agencies renders democracy incomplete and causes the central government to create a populist agenda. In fact supporting separation of powers with decentralization, in other words with sharing of powers compensates lack of democracy and strengthens common good by creating pluralism. Combining democratic pluralism with the organizational power of the Republic is essential for the common good.
Strengthening decentralization/local governments is essential for limitation of government and democratization of the parliamentary system. In addition to the above, strengthening local governments play a key role in solving historical problems caused by rejection of pluralism such as Kurdish identity and common good. A new national identity that includes pluralism can be an alternative to the fundamentally Turkist and Islamist identity which is pushed on to Turkey today and move the politics from the ontological plane to epistemological plane where values matter.
On this plane politics will stop the Republic from being an arena of fight and distinct identities and place it on a democratic platform. Thus it will contribute to the meeting of the republic and democracy needed in the 21st century.
Rethinking the econo-political crisis
Global search for economic alternatives has accelerated also with the effect of the pandemic. Neoliberalism, as an econo-political and socio-political program is acknowledged as
unsustainable even by capitalist power and capital owning class since it causes injustice, poverty and inequality among others. This acknowledgement which indicates a crisis leads also to quest for alternatives. Therefore populism needs to be updated to a new version which accepts class differences without relying on solidarism and based on econo-political facts in 2022. A social rights program which focuses not only on tension between classes but also on inequalities between identities, nature-people dilemma and gender differences is needed. Meeting such a need may require not to swim against the global current and respond to the current/cyclical econo-political crisis.
On the other hand the Republican Principle is based on citizenship. In these days where post-pandemic world makes people think about citizenship and the scope of citizenship rights which were eroded in the neoliberal period is socially and economically extended, the Republican Principle has a considerable amount of baggage. Therefore the bonds between citizenship rights and the Republican principle in the post-pandemic period need to be updated.
It should be noted that the period where class and identity struggles were pushing each other has ended leaving its place to a period where these two nourish each other. Poverty, inequality and injustice tend to become global.
Therefore class and identity do not push each other and while capital is focused on a very small group, poverty is becoming a global phenomenon.
It is necessary to rethink econo-politics within these contexts and invite the people to equality, justice and freedom axes. For this, institutional commitments can provide guarantee and constitutions as social contracts can be the embodiment of these guarantees.
INSTEAD OF CONCLUSION: THE NEW CONSTITUTION WHEN ENTERING THE SECOND CENTURY
RISKS AND IMPLEMENTATION SUGGESTIONS
Entering the Second Century, the Turkish society is faced with a serious disintegration due to economic crisis and with excessive polarization due to political and social tensions. This dangerous situation stems from the centralized government system and the qualities of the political regime. An unpredictable government system in which balance-control is ignored, political decisions are taken by one entity and despite having historical roots inequality and injustice grown out of this system and lack of democracy and freedom represent serious risk before the Second Century.
A polarization environment which can grow with the damage caused by the economic crisis threatens the daily life of the people of Turkey and the authoritarian regime which resists to regional and global changes exacerbates potential risks in the country. Ethical and political responsibility of politics in Turkey is to develop a new social contract and define its primary source characteristics, by confronting with and inspiring from the past and in line with global trends. A counter-democratic and alternative hegemony should be built by making connections among the parts of the society that demand rights.
Quest for an hegemonic discourse which will evaluate differences not under sameness but under the union of individuality and bring all social classes together has a potential to always create a major impact in moments of econo-political and socio-political crisis.
- A manifesto which is based on Realpolitik shall be published. This manifest should cover all classes-identities in the society and have a content that sheds light on the historical-threat-anxiety-problems in their memories. When this is achieved, different parts of the society will pay attention to the new constitution issue and a process which they can express their demands will become functional. In short it is clear that polarization in the society as a result of the acts of the political arena can only be eliminated by sharing a manifesto that explains state-society relations at the door of Second Century with the public,
- Making “What Kind of a New Constitution From a Historical Perspective?” and “Second Century Constitution” themed programsin conventional and social media,
- Posting short videos about “Why New Constitution” on social media, which will include popular figures,
- Advertisements and posts on social media and shows on conventional media in order to eliminate the obstacles as a result of social and econo-politic polarization,
- As generations change, visual learning and visual opinion forming potential grows every day. To realize this potential with the new constitution, a short film(s) can be made by independent organizations, which depict utopian state-society relations based on constitutions, and describe historical events in a highly democratic way,
- A “Second Century Constitution Committee”, with equal representation based on the authority of science, which historical and current value of the 1921 Constitution will be discussed in detail can be formed. This committee can have a work schedule which focuses on concrete outputs to improve motivation and belief in the public.
- A Democratic Civil Society Network which will determine the plans and programs to find out what kind of country is wanted at the threshold of the second century can be formed and the works of this network can be shared with the public,
- A convention with the title “To the Second Century with Local Congress Governments” can be held in each city and the outlines of the Second
- Century Constitution can be discussed with the relevant parties in each city and the report with the results of these discussions can be shared with the public,
- A shared common values declaration whether oral or written can be signed on current/conjunctural econo-political and socio-political issues that constitute the Second Century with the participation of Political Parties.
- An academic study titled “What Happened in the First Century?” can be planned and the results of this study can be shared with the public to correctly identify what happened in the first century, and to take history out of the fiction world and include it in the main learnings, and other similar suggestions can be developed and implemented.
In addition to promising many benefits, in general each suggestion will promote a public interest on the Second Century, show that participant political actors have an idea and allow a democratic hegemony alternative to the hegemony project called 2023 vision of the government which can be described as a floating signifier and which the government add social demands, wishes and desires.
It should be remembered that we need to find a solution not only to the lack of public visibility of plurality and lack of establishment of rights but also to the approach that endangers the idea that the state and the country belong to the people by distancing Republic from the people.
Overcoming this idea will lead to testing of the government block with democratic life and reveal the natural boundaries for justice and freedom.
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