Parties agree to extend deadline for new constitution

Representatives of the political parties that make up the parliamentary Constitutional Reconciliation Commission have agreed to extend the time the commission has to draft Turkey's new constitution, Parliament Speaker Cemil Cicek said late on Monday.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with members of the commission, Cicek said party representatives have agreed on an extension of time to finalize the process of drafting the new constitution, but he did not clearly state how long the commission will continue working. Sources said Cicek plans to convince the commission members to finalize their work by mid-May, but no immediate confirmation came from the parliament speaker or other state authority.

The most recent deadline passed on April 1 and Parliament was engulfed by uncertainty on how to handle the issue of writing the new constitution amidst constant bickering and accusations among politicians over the purported failure of the commission.

Monday's extension was the second granted to the commission to wrap up its work. Dec. 31, 2012, was previously declared the last day for the commission to finalize the draft constitution, but it failed to meet this deadline.

In early February, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) agreed to extend the time to help the commission finalize its work. The request came from the MHP, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded positively, seeking the backing of the opposition party during the drafting process.

Sources close to the AK Party say the ruling party insists that the commission finish drafting the new constitution by the end of this month, but the opposition is reluctant to work under a strict deadline. Instead, the opposition says the commission should have an open-ended schedule and it should not be forced to complete its draft on a certain date.

Also on Monday evening, Cicek said a new sub-commission will be set up to accelerate the process. There is currently one sub-commission that focuses on finalizing the writing of articles on which the commission has already reached a consensus. The new sub-commission will work to bridge differences among political parties over controversial articles.

According to the parliament speaker, the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission will carry on its “busy schedule” and complete drafting the new constitution as soon as possible.

Ahmet Iyimaya, a deputy from the AK Party and member of the commission, spoke to reporters before Monday's meeting and said the commission is capable of finishing the draft of the new document within a month. “The last word [on the deadline] belongs to the commission head,” he added.