New Constitution for Turkey… Could Crowdsourcing Be the Answer?

In USA on August 5, 2011 by tbrackens

“Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has modernized Turkey, but whether he will democratize it is the great, unanswered question”, posed the Wall Street Journal.  The June 12th Turkish elections promised a new approach. A consensus had emerged that the newly elected parliament would start the process of writing a new constitution. The current one was drafted in 1982 by a military junta.

Erdogan has vowed to push ahead with plans for a new constitution that would be inclusive and democratic. “The outcome of the June 12 elections proved that the new constitution should be drafted with the largest participation possible and it should be a text of consensus that will meet the demands of the whole society,” he said.

So, is Erdogan slyly implying Turkey crowdsource their constitution?

Well… since crowdsourcing is simple the act of tapping into the collective intelligence of the public to complete tasks that are traditionally done by a single person or a group; then why not, especially when it concerns laws that will governing the people.

Iceland is doing it.

In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, the government decided it was time to rewrite the rules and have a constitution that is true to Iceland and not based on Denmark’s constitution. Roughly, 950 randomly selected citizens were invited to brainstorm and discuss the new constitution. It was then agreed that the public should be involved throughout the process rather than just be allowed in to vote at the conclusion.

A 25 member constitutional council is posting draft clauses of the country’s new constitution across all digital channels as an open crowdsource digital project.  The comments that are posted on its website, or Facebook page, are being considered and incorporated into the new Icelandic constitution. The council also setup a Twitter, YouTube and Flickr page, all aimed at enhancing the transparency behind the process of drafting a new constitution,

“The public sees the constitution come into being before their eyes … This is very different from old times where constitution makers sometimes found it better to find themselves a remote spot out of sight, out of touch,” says Thorvaldur Gylfason, a member of the constitutional council.

Will it work in Turkey?

That may be easier said than done even for a relatively small country; last reported population was 73.7 million people in 2010. Turkey has just 1.07 percent of the world’s total population, which equates to one person in every 94 people on the planet is a resident of Turkey. Whilst, the majority of the population is considered Turks (79%), the largest minority group is the Kurds (15%), who were widely referred to as “mountain Turks” instead of a distinct ethnic. The lacking of acceptance and/or tolerance is an ongoing theme in Kurdish-Turkish conflict.

According to a July 27th article from Kurdistan Tribune, in the span of two weeks, the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK, has killed at least 20 Turkish soldiers. Although the 68 year-old ban was lifted, the Kurdish language to this day is still barred from public schools, Parliament and other official government institutions such as judicial courts. Relations were further exacerbated when judicial officials refused to seat the elected pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) to parliament. The killings, the ban, the denied seating are just a few examples of the strained relations occurring in Turkey.

But, a new all inclusive constitution that represents all people in Turkey could led the way to amending the grievances of Kurdish people and successful demonstrate the importance of civic engagement.  The people of Turkey have already shown they are ready. Their recent June 12th election is evident of the people’s willingness to have a more balanced and inclusive government. And last year, more than half the population voted to endorse modifications to Turkey’s constitution, making the military more accountable to civilian courts and giving parliament – the 550-seat Gran National Assembly (Buyuk Millet Meclisi) – more power to appoint judges.

And the tweets coming out of Turkey signal the people are ready.

  • #Turkey‘s society is crushing the military; an obstacle that stands in the way of constructing democracyis being removed”
  • Turkey: Why not prepare the constitution online?

Crowdsourcing is definitely a good way to get up close and personal with needs and expectations of the people. The process has the potential to make the government truly about the people. Taking input from citizens, allow for a more collaborative form of government. The unseasoned ideas offered give the government clear insight into what’s important to the citizens and what they want to see happen in their country.

So if Erdogan is going to reach to the public to create a constitution, then social media channels must be utilized as form of communication for democratic reform. Facebook is the leading social media network for many in Turkey. 84% of all Internet users have an account on Facebook says a report by ComScore; followed by My Space. Turkish Mynet, Netlog, and Kalpkalbe. Public discussion, ideas, deliberations and updates can be achieved through social media as evident of Iceland’s approach and the “Give a Minute” campaign inspiring New Yorkers.

Simply put, this is an opportunity for Turkey to blend the traditional legislation process with mass participation. Hopefully in the end, the people will be pleasantly surprised by the collective brilliance instead of dismayed by individual intolerance and short-sidedness.

One Response to “New Constitution for Turkey… Could Crowdsourcing Be the Answer?”

  1. If I had to pick one word for this post, it would be: complete. You not only focused on a key current issue within Turkey, but looked outside of Turkey at how another country was addressing this issue and then imagined how a similar model might (or might not) work in Turkey. The example of “Give A Minute” as a evolved model of civic engagement helped to prove your point … that there is a lot of potential in the idea of crowdsourcing – and the “unanswered question” (to borrow the phrase from the WSJ piece you noted) is whether Turkey will be able to capitalize on this opportunity. Great post and thinking. (5)

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