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A Key to the “Democratic Opening”: Rethinking Citizenship, Ethnicity and Turkish Nation-State

This article focuses on the ongoing process of transition in Turkey from a “homogeneous national identity”, which produced a notion of “equality as sameness”, to a “multiculturalist democracy” that requires a new constitutional system that has a conception of “equality in difference”. The organization of this paper is as follows: First a brief evaluation of the Kemalist foundations of the Republic will be provided to establish how the official ideology in Turkey conceives of state-society relations. An evaluation of the persistence of this official ideology under the multiparty political system is provided in the second part. The final part of the paper concentrates on the rising public presence of the Kurdish problem, which is forcing Turkish politics to change its constitutional identity, most notably aided by the process of change driven by EU reforms. The article concludes with a call for the inevitability of a radical change in Turkish constitutional identity to include a public recognition of multiculturalism through an acceptance of linguistic and other cultural rights, but leaves open the question of how this change will be realized.

A Key to the Democratic Opening Rethinking Citizenship Ethnicity and
The Kemalist idea of a unitary nation-state has been entrenched in the constitution and statute law of Turkey
 

In the crisis-ridden series of events that led to the early general parliamentary elections in July 2007, the most important topic in Turkey’s public debate was the need for a new and democratic constitution.1 The Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP), the party in government then and now, made an explicit bid in its electoral campaign for a new, civilian and democratic constitution and initiated a process for preparing a draft constitution for extensive public debate. With the single exception of the main opposition party in the parliament, the Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, CHP), all other parties, including the ultranationalist Nationalist Action Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, MHP), the party predominantly representing Kurdish interests, the Democratic Society Party (Demokratik Toplum Partisi, DTP), and most of the independent deputies, were supportive of this idea for a new and democratic constitution. 

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