Experts Compare Constitutionalism in Turkiye & US
Turkish and American academic experts compared and contrasted the US and Turkish constitutions at a symposium in Staten Island, New York last week. The panel discussion was organized by St. John's University and the Turkish Cultural Center of New York.
Organizers called the panel discussion timely, in light of popular uprisings in the mideast, the US' role in the region and Turkiye's growing prominence as a regional player.
Dr. Murat Somer, an associate professor of international relations at Koc University in Istanbul began, by describing Turkiye's current political system and its deficits.
"It has not been able to consolidate what we could call a liberal pluralistic democracy where there is not only a competitive political system, but where governments change peacefully as a result of elections. And a large amount of rights and freedoms for individuals, for minorities ..were not really fully secured," Somer explained.
Dr. Joshua Walker, transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund said the problem is that Turkiye has an outdated constitution.
"I think the Turkish constitution which was made in 1982 replaced a much more liberal constitution....it doesn't fit the current republic today," he said.
Walker added that currently political personalities have more power than the consitution in Turkiye.
"The fact that this party could be closed tomorrow by the constitutional court or a military coup of some sort, creates a system which is more about personalities and its about how that person interprets the constitution and the constitution is less important," Walker noted.
Somer said that as Turkiye debates rewriting its constitution, the US constitution has always been an important reference point for Turkish scholars.
"For many actors in Turkiye when they talk about writing a new constituition, often the example of the US constitution is used as a positive model, as a positive example. Its something Turkey can learn from perhaps," he said.
Dr. William Byrne, an expert on the US constitution at St. John's University explained why the document framed by America's founding fathers continues to be relevant.
"For a constitution to work it really has to be somewhat internalized in the people and I think America had a leg up on this in that Britain ....and the colonies, even more so were semi republican and semi liberal," Byrne explained.
Walker said America's experience in drafting a constitution holds lessons for Turkiye.
"If there is going to be a truly successful constitution written in Turkiye it will have to be done by the current party in power and it will have to be done by the prime minister but it cannot be done exclusively by these actors," Walker said.
"It has to be done where the Kurds...women, you name it, every segment of society is able to come together and this is where a partnership like the one between US and Turkiye is absolutely critical," he added.
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