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    Reform seeks to curtail YAŞ power

    by Göksel Bozkurt
    27 Nisan 2009 - 00:00Son Güncelleme : 26 Nisan 2009 - 18:18

    ANKARA - A possible amendment, which foresees the possibility of judicial review for YAŞ decisions, is discussed at the first meeting of a team of legal experts set up by the ruling Justice and Development Party and is expected to be added to the constitutional reforms package

    The planned amendments to the Constitution are likely to include a controversial change that would foresee legal scrutiny over decisions taken by the Supreme Military Council, or YAŞ. The amendment will be included in the constitutional package if Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan approves.

    Having established a committee composed of legal experts from the party, the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has started work on a draft constitutional package. A possible amendment, which foresees judicial review for YAŞ decisions, was discussed at the committee’s first meeting last week and will be added to the constitutional package, the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review has learned. However, if there is no compromise on the amendment with the opposition parties, the government will not insist.

    "We are currently making our preparations for the draft package. When it is ready, we will seek consensus with other political parties," a member of the committee said, speaking to the Daily News. "We can remove the amendment from the package if they object," he said, adding that the AKP does not have a precondition for the changes.

    YAŞ convenes biannually to determine the military’s agenda. It also decides promotions and expulsions among the military staff. Lack of discipline and reactionary activities of the army officials are considered as important reasons for an expulsion. According to the current Constitution, YAŞ decisions cannot be submitted to judicial review.

    President Abdullah Gül put an annotation up to the expulsions through YAŞ decisions during his term in office as prime minister. Current Prime Minister Erdoğan also acted in the same way.

    Package scope extended
    Besides an amendment on YAŞ decisions, the committee is also planning to extend the scope of the package in relation to different topics. Thus, it may cover 10 or 12 articles, instead of four as previously announced by Erdoğan.

    The four amendment items already in the draft include the right for individual appeal to the Constitutional Court, the obdusman law, the election law and the Venice criteria, which will restrict party closures. Sources said some amendments related to European Union, or EU, democratization, individual rights and freedoms may also be added.

    The committee also discussed the amendment related to the election of Constitutional Court members. The details of the amendment have not been determined yet. However, the AKP insists that the Constitutional Court should include some members who are elected by Parliament.

    A debate over Gül’s presidential term was another topic of the committee meeting. The committee sought ways to end the debate about whether Gül’s term of office should be five or seven years, and decided that the problem can be solved only through constitutional amendment.

    The debate over Gül’s presidency term started after a referendum on a legal package in 2007 that opened the way for voters to elect the president instead of Parliament, and decreased the presidential tenure from seven years in office to five. However, the package was opened for referendum after Gül was elected president by the Parliament. The committee is currently thinking over adding a provisional clause to the Constitution in order to guarantee Gül’s presidential tenure of seven years in line with the former article. Presided by deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek, the committee includes the head of the Parliamentary Constitution Committee Burhan Kuzu, head of the Parliamentary Justice Committee Ahmet İyimaya and AKP’s deputy group leaders Sadullah Ergin and Bekir Bozdağ.
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