A statement by a chief advisor of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suggesting that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk would be mentioned only with his “founder” title in the new constitution has infuriated Turkey’s main opposition party.
“The prevailing view is that there should be no reference to any specific ideology in the new constitution,” Mehmet Uçum, a chief adviser to Erdoğan, said in an interview at the presidential palace in Ankara, Bloomberg News Agency reported on June 14, unveiling the Turkish leadership’s plans to remove references in the constitution binding public servants to the ideology of Atatürk, the nation’s secular founder, as part of a comprehensive overhaul of the state, its principles and institutions under Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
“It’s thought to be more appropriate if the constitution’s preamble states that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is the founding leader of the Turkish Republic,” Uçum told Bloomberg, in remarks which led to snowballing reactions from all three opposition parties holding seats in the national assembly.
“Atatürk is our red line. Such a thing can never be accepted,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chair Yasemin Öney Cankurtaran said.
“As the CHP, we will look out for Atatürk’s name, picture, words and principles to the bitter end. In a country built with Atatürk’s will, neither his name, nor his thoughts, nor the things he left can be forgotten. No such thing is acceptable. The words of the president’s advisor are nothing but an attempt to put out feelers. He is trying to test the will of the people. But this country’s people and the CH Party [CHP] will never let such a thing happen,” Cankurtaran said.
CHP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Engin Altay said he was convinced Uçum’s statement was delivered “within the knowledge of the president.”
“The president should give up further polarizing and dividing society into camps. Nobody should be besotted with pipe dreams and drag the country into a chaotic environment,” Altay said. “The path he’s on is not a good one. We can see that the president is persistently trying to drag Turkey into a secular/anti-secular conflict. No one should forget that the laicism trait cannot be changed. Nobody should get carried away with pipe dreams and drag the country into a chaotic environment,” he added.
For its part, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) recalled that since the very beginning, their party has emphasized the need for “the production management to be more democratic rather than the content of a new constitution.”
“The obligation to draft a roadmap, in regards to through which kind of mechanism, by how many participants and how participative the constitution can be drafted, belongs to the TBMM [the Grand National Assembly of Turkey] and the political parties. Topics concerning constitutor willpower can be solved on the axis of universal principles and reconciliation. Regarding the topic of establishing a constitution, parliament should develop an initiative, but not the president,” the HDP’s spokesperson, Ayhan Bilgen, said.
According to Oktay Vural, the deputy parliamentary group chair of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Uçum, “the old hand communist whom Erdoğan appointed to the palace, has researched 50 countries and South Africa will be taken as an example when the constitution is drafted.”
“This is Turkey. Nobody can be an example to us,” Vural continued. “I guess you’re going to make ‘the chief terrorist’ [Nelson] Mandela since you’re planning a South Africa example?” he said, using a byword for the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan.
“Where did this come from? I guess there is also a Nobel Prize being prepared for the chief terrorist. Are you going back down from the salvation philosophy of the Republic of Turkey? You messed around with the name of the state and the name of the nation. Just who do you think you’re fooling?” he added.