Gaziantep Breaks Trabzon’s Participation Record in Citizens’ Assembly The eleventh of the Constitution Platform Citizens’ Assembly meetings was held in Gaziantep.
GAZİANTEP – The eleventh meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly series, carried out under the secretariat of TEPAV with the initiative of the Constitution Platform consisting of syndicates, professional organizations and civil society organizations, was held in Gaziantep on Sunday, 15 April 2012. The meeting, which attracted great attention, broke Trabzon’s participation record.
Delivering the opening speech at the meeting held at the Gaziantep Middle East Fair Center, TOBB President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu stated that the importance of the city was not limited to the War of Independence or that the solid steps Gaziantep had taken over the last two decades had made the city an industrial giant. Stressing that the city was Turkey’s gate to the Middle East and a pioneering city of the Anatolian Tigers, he added, “I heartily thank all of you for attending this meeting on a holiday in order to seal your future.”
Saying, “We must design our constitution with a sense of responsibility for the future generations in mind,” he stated that the “constitution volunteers” who were participating these meetings organized with the slogan “Turkey Speaks” had to be the key actors of the process. He added, “I will be frank: Turkey will have difficulty moving forward with a constitution that is often changed, its spirit stuck between the sovereignty of the people and the elite. The present constitution no longer fits Turkey. The people will be their own tailor this time. If we truly want this, if we want 25,000 dollars per capita income, then we must take stock of the tools we have available. Our constitution is chief among these.”
He concluded, “Today tell us whatever you know and think freely. What kind of country, what kind of government do you honestly want to be a member of? If you don’t talk today, the blame will rest on your shoulders. You will not be able to answer for it to your children.”
“We have made a promise and we will not back down”
Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek stated that four political parties had made a promise to the people on making a new constitution. He went on:
“I want to stress that we will not back down on our promise. In today’s times, we have to do proper politics and the way to do this is that we abide by our promise. No deceptions or excuses. You will decide what type of a constitution you want in line with your expectations from the state. You will give the directives and we will do whatever is necessary."
Stressing that the political institution would lose its reputation if it failed to make the new constitution, he admitted that some would criticize them, saying “You can't make a constitution as good as the 1961 constitution that you don’t like.” He added that the critical fact was that Turkey could not go further with the current constitution. He said, “We need to soften the atmosphere to do this. The power to achieve this rests with us. Unfortunately, politics are always associated with strife, conflict and tension. I am really ashamed of this, for myself and for the Parliament. These are not what bring political credit. Political prestige requires a proper style and a mentality that praises unity, solidarity, love and respect. This is why the current parliament has to accomplish the new constitution.”
Reiterating that Turkey needed a new constitution and the Parliament was obliged to keep its promise to make it, he called the people to follow up if the promise was abided by.
During the meeting, four members of the Constitution Committee as well as representatives from the civil society organizations and syndicates that are involved or that support the Constitution Platform delivered speeches.
Following the opening session, the participants discussed and voted on the options regarding the new constitution. The constitutional issues debated during the meeting were:
- freedom of expression and political association
- quality of public services (equality of access and impartiality)
- checks and balances on political power
- government system
- religion-state relationship
- nature and cultural assets
- local administrations
- elections and political parties
- economic and social rights, the principle of social state and positive discrimination