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Erdogan calls for new constitution in Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at the TUBITAK and TUBA Science Awards in Ankara, Turkey on 28 January 2021. [Emin Sansar - Anadolu Agency]
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at the TUBITAK and TUBA Science Awards in Ankara, Turkey on 28 January 2021. [Emin Sansar - Anadolu Agency]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated that his party and its coalition allies may begin working on a new constitution, making his government the first civilian administration in the country to do so.

"Perhaps, the time has come for Turkey once again to discuss a new constitution," said Erdogan after a cabinet meeting in the capital Ankara yesterday. If his ruling AK Party reaches an understanding with its ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), he explained, "We may mobilise for a new constitution in the coming period."

Erdogan's call for a new constitution comes four years after the current constitution was amended following a referendum in 2017, which granted greater executive powers to the presidency. The following year, Erdogan was re-elected for a second term as President of the Republic.

A primary factor behind that change was the failed military coup attempt on 15 June 2016, which prompted a state of emergency that lasted two years. Further securitisation and the subsequent wide-reaching powers of the president were criticised by many for being contrary to the tradition of presidential neutrality in Turkey.

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"No matter how much we change, it is not possible to erase the signs of the coup and tutelage that have been inserted into the spirit of the constitution," noted Erdogan. He expressed his regrets that previous attempts had failed due to the opposition's "uncompromising stance".

The Turkish leader insisted that the drafting of a new constitution must be transparent and shared with the public. "The text that emerges must be presented for the approval of the people."

Erdogan's suggestion comes weeks after MHP leader Devlet Bahceli himself suggested changes to the constitution in order to ban the Kurdish-led Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which is alleged to have ties with the outlawed terror organisation the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

"Work on a constitution is not something that can be done under the shadow of groups linked to the terrorist organisation [PKK] with people whose mental and emotional ties to their country are broken," stressed President Erdogan.

Although he did not give any specific details or indications of what the new constitution would look like, it would be the first new civilian constitution in the Republic. The last two constitutional texts were produced in 1961 and 1982 under military rule.

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