Turkey speaker calls for new charter
ANKARA - Turkey's parliament speaker called Thursday on political parties to draft a new democratic constitution without delay, warning that failure to do so would tarnish the country's image.
Political parties in the 550-seat parliament have been working since 2011 to replace the current constitution which was drafted by the powerful army after the 1980 military coup.
But little progress has been reported.
"Turkey urgently needs a new constitution. Efforts to write a new charter should not be delayed further," speaker Cemil Cicek told reporters.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that if there is no agreement by April, his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has a comfortable majority in parliament, will write a new charter and put it to a public vote.
Cicek said the constitution needed to be drawn up before three major elections in the predominantly Muslim but staunchly secular state.
"It's hard to write a new charter in an election atmosphere," he said.
Local elections are scheduled for March 2014, followed a few months later by a presidential poll, while a general election is set for 2015.
"We don't have much time ahead of us," said Cicek.
He also warned that failure to write a new text would tarnish Turkey's image as a "role model" in the Arab world, noting that countries affected by the Arab Spring had adopted their own new charters in the aftermath of the civilian uprisings.