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With the fall of the Iron Curtain and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, liberalism appeared to become the only game in town. The political cataclysms of the late 1980s triggered a wave of scholarship in political science and constitutional law on the prospects of political change. In particular, constitutionalism, constitution making, and constitutional politics became dominant topics accompanying the debate on transformations in the socialist states of Eastern and Central Europe, and later South Africa and Latin American countries. The enthusiasm of the historical moment made most contributions to this debate focus on the conditions that make transformation (i.e., constitutionalization or re-constitutionalization) successful. As most transitions were from some sort of authoritarianism or autocracy to democracy, the question at the heart of scholarship has been how to successfully constitutionalize a liberal democratic state.
This chapter provides a systematic analysis of the failure of popular constitution making in Turkey. Based on the literature and case studies, the chapter begins with elaborating theoretical premises of inclusive and democratic constitution making. Operationalizing the theoretical benchmarks established, the chapter shows that past constitution-making processes in Turkey have not even satisfied minimal conditions of popular constitution making, that is, direct and free election of a constituent assembly through all citizens. Against this background, it is indeed surprising that the 2011–2013 process was designed to meet maximum conditions of popular constitution making ‘e.g., election of MPs as constitution makers, public consultation before and after drafting’. Analyzing the 2011–2013 process, the chapter elaborates that constitution making did not live up to the promise of an inclusive and democratic process. It explains the reasons for failure and demonstrates that parties were unable to overcome deep disagreements over contested issues ‘e.g., state–religion relations, citizenship, government system’.
This chapter focuses on the debates over fundamental principles of state organization that took place in the Constitutional Conciliation Commission ‘Anayasa Uzlaşma Komisyonu, AUK’ during Turkey’s 2011–2013 constitution-making process. It discusses the failure of popular constitution making as well as the most recent constitutional changes in the context of a tradition of statist, authoritarian constitutionalism in Turkey. We assess the extent to which disagreements over the fundamental nature of principles of state organization contributed to the failure of popular constitution making in 2013. Our inquiry shows that the diverging conceptions of democracy, separation of powers, and the rule of law of the different parties involved led to extreme tensions. Deep disagreements over these issues and others made compromise impossible. Therefore, the contested subjects subsumed under the principles of state organization contributed significantly to the failure of popular constitution making in Turkey, and cleared the path to majority imposition by the ruling party in subsequent constitution-making and amendment processes.
This book offers an in-depth account of the failure of popular constitution making in Turkey from 2011 to 2013, which was an anomaly in the otherwise authoritarian history of Turkish constitutional politics. The authors demonstrate that, even in unfavorable conditions, constitution making that brings together different stakeholders can potentially lead to significant improvement of constitutional regimes. Long-standing societal divides regarding cultural and religious diversity, which were evident in political parties' negotiations, played a significant role in the failure of the process in Turkey. Most notably, the ruling AKP's insistence on establishing a presidential system - supported by neither other political parties nor the public - destabilized the process and exacerbated distrust among the drafters. Unfavorable procedures, particularly an unrealistic deadline and the unanimity principle, prevented consensus and allowed the AKP to hijack the process. The process was a missed opportunity for democratization before Turkey plunged into full-fledged democratic backsliding.
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