Turkish Constitution, a riddle inside the Middle East
The Turkish state, forms an interesting and at the same time paradox research field, by means of public law. Turkey's governmental system does not constitute an unmixed military dictatorship, neither a democracy accompanied with the guarantees of the rule of law.
Nowadays the governmental system of Turkey and the constitution that is applicable to everyone, is walking the line between western modernization -with serious legal grounds though- and traditional Ottoman-islamic cultures.
The most serious contradiction of the turkish constitution, from which many inefficiencies and difficulties of an adjustment into the european context stem, is that of the main goal of the constitution which is the strict and undeviating abidance of the principles of Kemal. This means that the historical and ethical values of ethnicism, statism, secularism, republicanism and radicalism, all initiated by Kemal Ataurk, must be applicated in every aspect of social and political life. The constitutional text is oriented towards a centralist and absolutist state, with one nation, one language and one religion.
It is important to extensively refer to the western modernization as a main element of the turkish state, introduced by Kemal during . He initiated a legal system of european origin, totally contradictive to anything that existed before in Turkey. In the period between 1926 to 1935 the gregorian calendar was adopted as well as all the legal codes -penal, civil and commercial- without differences from the Swiss, Italian or German principles. The new turkish alphabet also took place and replaced the arabic one. Turkish citizens were obliged to have a last name and Sunday became established as an official holiday.
Except for western modernization as an important element of the turkish identity, another one that gives Turkey a differentiated position inside the Middle Eastern context, is that of the cosmic character of the state, which was inititated, but at the same time was accompanied by the transformation of Islam to a tool for the constitution of a centralist and authoritarian state, so that state power would never be in danger of a pluralist political society. Turkey typically forms today a state with separated powers between state and religion. Nevertheless, the constitution refers to the "Department of Religious Affairs", which motivates religious expansiveness, against the trurkish cosmic state. This department consists of offices all around the trurkish state, with clerics and civil servants with a deeply religious character, responsible for the more than 70.000 mosques in Turkey. We should notice though, that there are aso articles in the turkish constitution, aiming to deter religious propaganda when it comes to political parties, something that even when it is not always a tangible goal, it still remains an innovating element, considering the constitutional paradigms of many other Middle Eastern states.
Finally, another characteristic of utmost importance in Turkey, is the military power and its impact on political power. Inside the Council of the National Security in Turkey, the military stuff is almost equal in numbers to the political members. A demilitarization of the Council, was once tried, but due to the fact that decisions are not always taken in majority but instead need to have a unanimous consensus, this effort was not really effective.
Despite the fact that the rule of law is full of inadequacies in Turkey, we can say that the Turkish state posesses an authentic competitive political speech, with political parties covering a huge spectrum of ideologies. Women gained the right to vote since 5. And the Parliament in urkey is definitely not numb. But unfortunetely, the role of the Parliament is being corroded by three factors, the deficient adoption of the parliamentary principle that which would subsequently put limitations and control the government, secondly the autonomous legislative power of the government and finally the superpowers gathered by the President of Democracy of Turkey.
But the most problematic part of the turkish constitution is the one refering to the protection of human rights. Even though human rights are covered by a huge number of articles inside the constitution. this fact is not measured by a democratic quality of those rights. These rights, are confuted by general and specific limitations based on the duties of people towards society. This way, human rights get infringed and there is no any sanction accompanying infringments.
In short, we cannot call the Turkish state a military dictatorship as it is more complicated than that. As a polity of an authoritarian parliamentarism it seems to be a principle of modernization, in comparison to the polities of the islamic states, where austere dictatorships take place, such as in Iraq, or the theocratic regime in Iran, or the theocratic monarchy in Saudi Arabia.
The political bet in Turkey, would be to achieve a western democratic model, based on the construction of a rationalist relationship between majorities and minorities, on a level of social institutions and state organs. The incorporation of the voters of islamic parties in a more mediocre political environment, the reversal of the statist model that accelerates corruption and at the same time the elimination of the powers of the military, could lead Turkey to a new era, by leaving behind ethnicist outrageousness...
written by Themis Panagiotopoulou, PhD in Political Science