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Turkish PM promises creation of constitution by consensus

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official website, in Turkish] on Sunday pledged to work with opposition leaders to build the country's new constitution. Erdogan recently won his third consecutive term [Bloomberg report] in parliamentary elections, but his Justice and Development Party (AKP) [official website] failed to win a majority [Al Jazeera report] of seats in parliament, leaving the AKP without power to draft a constitution on its own. During his victory speech in Ankara, the country's capital, and throughout his campaign, Erdogan asserted that a new constitution is necessary to promote democracy and ensure human rights. Turkey's current constitution was drafted by a military government [BBC report] 30 years ago. Some groups have chastised Erdogan for failing to carry out his promises to ease tension between the Kurdish minority and the government, reform the judiciary and reduce unemployment. He has, however, been praised for his governance of the Turkish economy, which has experienced growth in recent years.

Constitutional reforms are an issue for Turkey's accession to the European Union (EU) [official website] since its constitution was written under military rule and limits freedom of expression and religion. A council for the EU in May 2009 said that Turkey should do more [press release, PDF; JURIST report] in terms of judicial reform, protection of citizens' rights and various other efforts in order to further their request to be granted accession to the EU [criteria materials]. Secular judges in Turkey warned [JURIST report] the AKP that proposed constitutional amendments were going too far in promoting an Islamic agenda. Earlier in 2009, a report [text, PDF, in Turkish] by advocacy group Tesev [advocacy website, in Turkish] argued that Turkish property rights still fell short [JURIST report] of those required to join the EU. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso [official profile] addressed the Turkish parliament in 2008 to applaud the government's efforts to reform a controversial provision of the Turkish penal code [JURIST reports] but stressed that further efforts would be necessary.

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