Constitutional reform may increase the power of Turkey’s defense minister

Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz

From Murat Yetkin, Hurriyet Daily News:  All attention in Turkish politics these days is focused on the Kurdish issue, but other important developments are taking place as well – especially behind the doors of the Parliamentary Constitution Conciliation Commission, which is tasked with drafting a new charter.

According to an agreement reached between the four parties that are present in Parliament, and who thus can join the commission, no official announcements will be made on the work until it gets completed. But a consensus reached by all four parties on two important items on the same subject that was written down in the minutes of the meetings has been leaked to the press offices of the Parliament. The Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) in the government and opposition parties, namely, the center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP), the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which is focused on the Kurdish problem, have agreed to bring the chief of General Staff out from being directly under the prime minister and link him to the defense minister.

This might be hard to understand for those looking at Turkey from outside since, in many countries, the chief of staff is already under the Defense Ministry in accordance with the natural flow of modern democracies, including the Western alliance NATO, of which Turkey is also a member. But this has been the situation since the first of a series of “Cold War” military coups in Turkey on May 27, 1960. In the Constitution imposed by the military regime through a public vote, the military was taken from the responsibility of the Defense Ministry (which had been the case even before the Republic was formed in 1923) and tied to the president in certain offices and to the prime minister in others as a symbol ensuring that the military would not take orders from politicians elected by popular vote despite the constitutional suggestion that they should.   (photo: Ajanskamu)

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