Govt unveils constitutional change package, seeks opposition support
After unveiling the details of a long-awaited package of proposed constitutional changes, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) yesterday began talks with opposition parties on the planned reforms. The package, which seeks to amend 23 articles of the Constitution, would make it more difficult to shut down political parties, and would reduce the length of political bans to individuals to three years from five. It would also give civil servants collective bargaining rights and open the way for members of the military to be tried in civilian courts. The changes would also pave the way for a new ombudsman's office to help resolve conflicts and investigate complaints. Changes to the structures of the Constitutional Court and Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) are also included in the package. Before visiting opposition parties to drum up support, Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek held a joint press conference in Parliament with Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin and AK Party parliamentary group deputy chairman Bekir Bozdag. "We will submit our proposal to Parliament by the end of this month. We are open to every reasonable suggestion," Cicek said. He said the constitutional changes are crucial for Turkey's development and especially for the country's European Union accession process. He said the AK Party wants a better-functioning democracy, calling the current Constitution too "narrow." Cicek also said that he would be visiting large civil society groups and business organizations to seek their support. Both the main opposition Republican People Party (CHP) and opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have already declined to support the package, but the CHP said it could support individual amendments if they were given separate votes.