Aysel Çelikel comments on the constitution: Towards a regime of enslavement

Jurist Prof. Dr. Aysel Çelikel, chair of the Association for the Support of Contemporary Living, has said with reference to the constitution whose introduction is being sought, ‘We are heading for government that is more arbitrary than a Sultanate. The mooted regime is a regime that will enslave the people and turn them into silent masses.’

17 Ocak 2017 Salı, 22:28
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Even when the 1982 constitution was being debated in the Consultative Assembly, in the aftermath of a coup or not, we had the opportunity to learn of the objections to each article through the written press and to follow the debate on state television, which in those days had one channel. The post-coup atmosphere meant that it was forbidden to campaign against it, but Prof. Dr. Orhan Aldıkaçtı and his colleagues, who drafted the constitution, nevertheless felt themselves obliged to expound on every objection in the interests of public support. Those who object to the new constitution whose introduction is sought in an environment in which we warded off a coup a mere six months ago find their voices silenced and their appearance on screens unwelcome; civil society organisations face blanket bans on taking to the streets and, apart from just one or two newspapers that remain true to professional ethics, nobody lends an ear to those who announce: ‘I object.’ One of those to object is former Minister of Justice and chair of the Association for the Support of Contemporary Living, Prof. Dr. Aysel Çelikel. She listed her objections in response to my questions.

- If the bill is adopted and passes through a referendum, what kind of Turkey awaits us?

I don’t call this a presidential system, because the presidential system is a system that in technical terms also includes democracy and freedom. This is a regime that will deliver to Turkey an autocratic government and dictatorship in the full sense. This is a regime change that places the three state powers of the legislature, executive and judiciary entirely at the president’s command and ties all the state’s vital activities to a single person. The mooted regime is a regime that will enslave the people and turn them into silent masses. With a need for public debate over this and for the public to be informed about the contents, it is being carried out through prohibitions and censorship and in an environment in which even the debate in parliament is being cloaked. Are some things being concealed from the public eye? Citizens don’t understand what’s going on, either, and blame the MPs who start fights. Even at the risk of being dubbed FETO or PKK supporters, this fight must be waged. The system being introduced is a system in which the AKP will always be in power and Erdoğan will be president for life.

- How can MPs be so keen to transfer their powers?

The rules of law are objective and cannot be tailor-made for one person. A law is not made to address any one person’s problem. They are not personal because they are rules that are to be applied throughout society. So, just as we do not make tailor-made laws for one person, tailor-made constitutions for one person cannot be made, either. Here we are making a tailor-made constitution for one person and encouraging that person to become a dictator. What is dramatic about this affair, rather than the president’s demand, is those who obey him.

‘This is a trap constitution’

- What will this turning inside out deprive us of?

We are losing everything. For one thing, I must say that the constitution is a trap constitution. There are the first four articles setting out the republic’s characteristics over which everyone is very sensitive. They are unalterable and their alteration may not even be proposed. What are these? A welfare, secular republic based on democracy and human rights. They claim not to have touched this. This is a trap. They have touched it, because the system they have brought in totally eliminates the separation of powers and has turned them into a unity of powers. The system it introduces takes legislating out of the hands of parliament and gives it to the president. The executive is already in the president’s hand. The judiciary is under his control. Under these circumstances, democracy has ceased to exist.

- We might as well dispense with the courts and make things function better!

They just remain for show; to say, ‘I am not making the decisions; the courts are making them.’ The president appoints six members to the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors. The Minister of Justice and the undersecretary are on the board, anyhow. The minister and undersecretary are in any case the two people who manage all business. The remaining seven people will undergo election by the simple majority of a parliament whose composition will be a given. Just as the judiciary ceases to exist, secularism is also in danger. Just as all executive-related decisions are passed by the president, the president has usurped the legislative organ’s powers through decrees with the force of law. Parliament’s legislative powers have been restricted to fundamental rights and personal rights, and the president has been granted authority over all business relating to the executive. And the latter will rule the country on his own by issuing decrees with the force of law. If he wishes, he can create ministries or eliminate them or change the administrative structure. In fact, he is in a position that also enables him to change the unitary system. The prime-ministry is being eliminated in any case. The president will also appoint ministers outside parliament and this will lead to the introduction of subservient ministers whom he can dismiss at will. He will single-handedly set national security policy. He will be the commander in chief of the Turkish armed forces and will proclaim a state of emergency any time he wishes without asking parliament. He will determine education policy single-handedly.

‘The DP was more democratic than the AKP’

- Where do you stand on a party-affiliated president?

It is said that he will be party affiliated but will be able to serve impartially all the same. This is impossible. The Minister of Justice Bozdağ says, ‘After the founding of the Republic, the president was party affiliated until the transition to multi-party life.’ The example of the 1930’s and 1940’s is cited. There was a single-party period and that president was also chair of the party. Those were in any case years in which the revolutions had just been accomplished, the republic had just been founded and fascistic governments were in power all over the world. Citing that as an example is downright nonsense. The passage was made to a multiparty regime in 1950. It was established that he or she could certainly not be partial under a multiparty regime. This was a principle that was also adopted at the DP’s congress to which they were firmly wedded. This means that the DP of seventy years ago was at a higher level than the AKP in terms of embracing democracy.

- There is also the affair of parliamentary elections and presidential elections being held together.

It’s very dangerous. The desire for the same party to always govern the country is laid bare in this article. While the president is campaigning on his behalf, his MPs and party will be engaged in the same campaign. A single-party campaign will be waged in unison in the country. A single-party campaign will draw on the benefits and powers that come from being in government, and, as a result, will be a mechanism that operates to the detriment of opposition parties. So, whichever party the president is from, that party will also have the majority in parliament. Is it possible to speak of national sovereignty in such an environment? If we do so today, it derives from all parties in parliament being under that roof. The national will does not only encompass the majority.

‘Electoral security will be a thing of the past’

- How will electoral security be attained in a system in which the executive and legislative are vested in a single person?

There remains no such thing as electoral security and reliability, because whichever party the president is from, the vast majority of parliament will automatically be connected to him. This is also a trap article. The impression is given that it exists, but it actually doesn’t. As a consequence, society’s security of life and property will also have ended. It is the judiciary, executive and legislature that are to protect the security of life and property. Parliament’s legislative powers are eliminated to a large extent and the country will be governed through the president’s decrees. Since the army, police, security forces and the state mechanism, what we call the executive, are to be institutions that are placed at the president’s sole volition, citizens will not trust them, either. So, will they trust the courts and the law? Since they will also be under the president’s control and power will rest with him, since the most senior court, the Constitutional Court will also be under his control, they will be unable to trust the law. In that case, who is society’s security of life and property to be entrusted to? According to the new constitution, to the president. One single person is responsible for the security of life and property of eighty million people. In view of all of this, nobody has the right to do this disservice to the Turkish people. They cannot justify this. A more arbitrary manner of rule than even in the Sultanate period is being introduced.

‘The president will be able to rule the country until he dies’

- What will happen if a ‘no’ emerges from the referendum?

I want to make two things clear. The president also has the power to dissolve parliament. He may dissolve parliament without citing any reason. If his own party is not in the majority and does not comply with his orders, then he can dissolve parliament. A president who dissolves parliament may hold elections any time he wishes, because he is authorised to hold office twice according to the law. But, he may dissolve parliament a short time before the second period ends and hold fresh elections, and since he will also stand for re-election at the same time, he will end up elected for a third period. In this manner, by dissolving parliament close to the end of each period and being elected along with parliament, he will be able to remain president until he dies. How can people, seeing that the citizen will retain no security, support this constitution?