Political season opens in Turkey -- but without the politicians
Istanbul — Turkey's new draft constitution has come under strong attack even before the country's Consultative Assembly has had a chance to debate it.
Leading jurists, university professors, labor union leaders, and intellectuals have joined in a chorus of criticism. But not former politicians. The politicians have been deprived by military government decree of the right to political activities or statements against the 200-article constitution.
The latest document has just been drafted by a special 15-member commission to replace the liberal Constitution of 1961, which was suspended by the generals who seized power in September 1980.
Criticism of the 200-article draft constitution centers on the restrictions introduced on human rights and liberties. Fears are also expressed on the large powers given to the executive and the limitations imposed on the powers of the legislature and the judiciary.
''This constitution which gives excessive authority to the executive opens the way to the establishment of an authoritarian regime in Turkey,'' said Atilla Sav, the chairman of the Istanbul Law Association. A noted law professor, Mumtaz Soysal, commented, ''The Turkish people are not so backward as to be condemned to have such a constitution.''
Sevket Yilmaz, the leader of the moderate labor confederation ''Turk-is,'' warned that ''with that constitution, labor unions will not be able to operate.''
The Turkish press has also taken a critical attitude toward the draft constitution. The popular Hurriyet bluntly noted that this constitution ''marked a step backward on the road to restore democracy in Turkey.''
The draft constitution, which took eight months to prepare, establishes a powerful executive, with a strong president as the head of state. This is in contrast to the 1961 Constitution, which gave the president only a ceremonial role. The president will be able, among other things, to dismiss the prime minister, dissolve parliament, demand emergency powers, and make high-level appointments.
The new constitution puts an end to a two-house parliament and establishes only a 400-member National Assembly, which will be elected for five years. The president, who will be elected by the assembly for seven years, will be assisted by a state advisory council, composed of former presidents and chiefs of staff.
The constitution, although recognizing the basic human rights and freedoms, allows the imposition of restrictions whenever this is deemed necessary for the preservation of law and order, and national unity.
Under the draft the freedom of expression would be limited to bar youth from ''pernicious ideologies'' and also to prevent crimes and protect the privacy of individuals.
Labor unions would not be permitted to engage in political activities or to be affiliated with any political party. The right to strike is recognized in the draft, but the right of lockout is also introduced. State security courts will be established to try cases of violation of law and order. Political organizations advocating communism, fascism, or theocracy will be banned.
According to Orhan Aldikacti, chairman of the commission, the new constitution has been prepared taking into account the weakness and mistakes contained in the 1961 Constitution - which he sees as a major cause of the political trouble and violence that swept Turkey in the 1970s.
This view is undoubtedly shared by the generals who now rule Turkey. But their attitude toward the draft constitution will be better known when it comes before the five-member National Security Council led by Gen. Kenan Evren. The draft goes on Aug. 2 to the 160-member Consultative Assembly for debate, and it is expected that some of the legislators will present amendments to several provisions. After the draft is approved by the assembly, it will be submitted to the National Security Council, which will have the last word before it is presented to a public referendum in November.
Several questions have been raised regarding the intentions of the National Security Council:
* Will it approve the broad lines of this constitution?
* Will it allow a free debate on it, and allow former politicians to participate?
* How will political leaders like Suleyman Demirel and Bulent Ecevit react, and what kind of signal will they give to their supporters prior to the referendum?
* And how would the generals react if the expected support is not given to the constitution in that referendum?
With these questions, the ''political season is opened in Turkey,'' as a Western diplomat puts it. But as politics begin to appear on the scene for the first time since the military takeover, the politicians are conspicuously absent.