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. (April 2015)
Turkey has had a history of parliamentary government before the establishment of the current national parliament. These include attempts at curbing absolute monarchy during the Ottoman Empire through constitutional monarchy, as well as establishments of caretaker national assemblies immediately prior to the declaration of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 but after the de facto dissolution of the Ottoman Empire earlier in the decade.
Parliamentary practice before the Republican era
There were two parliamentary governments during the Ottoman period in what is now Turkey. The First Constitutional Era lasted for only two years, elections being held only twice. After the first elections, there were a number of criticisms of the government due to the Russo-Turkish War, 1877–1878 by the representatives, and the assembly was dissolved and an election called on 28 June 1877. The second assembly was also dissolved by the sultan Abdul Hamid II on 14 February 1878, the result being the return of absolute monarchy with Abdul Hamid II in power and the suspension of the Ottoman constitution of 1876, which had come with the democratic reforms resulting in the first constitutional era.
The Second Constitutional Era is considered to have begun on 23 July 1908. The constitution that was written for the first parliament included control of the sultan on the public and was removed during 1909, 1912, 1914 and 1916, in a session known as the "declaration of freedom". Most of the modern parliamentary rights that were not granted in the first constitution were granted, such as the abolition of the right of the Sultan to deport citizens that were claimed to have committed harmful activities, the establishment of a free press, a ban on censorship. Freedom to hold meetings and establish political parties was recognized, and the government was held responsible to the assembly, not to the sultan.
During the two constitutional eras of the Ottoman Empire, the Ottoman parliament was called the General Assembly of the Ottoman Empire and was bicameral. The upper house was the Senate of the Ottoman Empire, the members of which were selected by the sultan. The role of the Grand Vizier, the centuries-old top ministerial office in the empire, transformed in line with other European states into one identical to the office of a Prime Minister, as well as that of the speaker of the Senate. The lower chamber of the General Assembly was the Chamber of Deputies of the Ottoman Empire, the members of which were elected by the general public.
Establishment of the national Parliament
After World War I, the victorious Allied Powers sought the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire through the Treaty of Sèvres. The political existence of the Turkish nation was to be completely eliminated under these plans, except for a small region. Nationalist Turkish sentiment rose in the Anatolian peninsula, engendering the establishment of the Turkish national movement. The political developments during this period have made a lasting impact which continues to affect the character of the Turkish nation. During the Turkish War of Independence, Mustafa Kemal put forth the notion that there would be only one way for the liberation of the Turkish people in the aftermath of World War I, namely, through the creation of an independent, sovereign Turkish state. The Sultanate was abolished by the newly founded parliament in 1922, paving the way for the formal proclamation of the republic that was to come on 29 October 1923.
Transition to Ankara
Mustafa Kemal, in a speech he made on 19 March 1920 announced that "an Assembly will be gathered in Ankara that will possess extraordinary powers" and communicated how the members who would participate in the assembly would be elected and the need to realise elections, at the latest, within 15 days. He also stated that the members of the dispersed Ottoman Chamber of Deputies could also participate in the assembly in Ankara, to increase the representative power of the parliament. These elections were held as planned, in the style of the elections of the preceding Chamber of Deputies, in order to select the first members of the new Turkish assembly. This Grand National Assembly, established on national sovereignty, held its inaugural session on 23 April 1920. From this date until the end of the Turkish War of Independence in 1923, the provisional government of Turkey was known as the Government of the Grand National Assembly.
President Atatürk and his colleagues leaving the building of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (today the Republic Museum
) after a meeting for the seventh anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey
The first trial of multi-party politics, during the republican era, was made in 1924 by the establishment of the Terakkiperver Cumhuriyet Fırkası at the request of Mustafa Kemal, which was closed after several months. Following a 6-year one-party rule, after the foundation of the Serbest Fırka (Liberal Party) by Ali Fethi Okyar, again at the request of Mustafa Kemal, in 1930, some violent disorders took place, especially in the eastern parts of the country. The Liberal Party was dissolved on 17 November 1930 and no further attempt at a multiparty democracy was made until 1945.
The multi-party period in Turkey was resumed by the founding of the National Development Party (Milli Kalkınma Partisi), by Nuri Demirağ, in 1945. The Democrat Party was established the following year, and won the general elections of 1950; one of its leaders, Celal Bayar, becoming President of the Republic and another, Adnan Menderes, Prime Minister.
Halil Sezai Erkut during a speech.
After the military forces intervened in the country’s political life on May 27, 1960, Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, President Celal Bayar, and all the ministers and members of the Assembly were arrested. The Assembly was closed. The Committee of National Unity, CNU (Milli Birlik Komitesi), assumed all the powers of the Assembly by a provisional constitution and began to run the country. Executive power was used by ministers appointed by the CNU.
The members of the CNU began to work on a new and comprehensive constitution. The Constituent Assembly (Kurucu Meclis), composed of members of the CNU and the members of the House of Representatives, was established to draft a new constitution on January 6, 1961. The House of Representatives consisted of those appointed by the CNU, representatives designated by two parties of that time (PRP and Republican Villagers National Party, RVNP), and representatives of various professional associations.
The constitutional text drafted by the Constituent Assembly was presented to the voters in a referendum on July 9, 1961, and was accepted by 61.17% of the voters. The 1961 Constitution, the first prepared by a Constituent Assembly and the first to be presented to the people in a referendum, included innovations in many subjects.
The 1961 Constitution stipulated a typical parliamentarian system. According to the Constitution, Parliament was bicameral. The legislative power was vested in the House of Representatives and the Senate. while the executive authority was vested in the President and the Council of Ministers. The Constitution envisaged a Constitutional Court.
The 1961 Constitution regulated fundamental rights and freedom, including economic and social rights, over a wide spectrum and adopted the principles of a democratic social state and the rule of law. The 1961 Constitution underwent many comprehensive changes after the military memorandum of March 12, 1971, but continued to be in force until the military coup of 1980.
The country underwent a military coup on September 12, 1980. The Constitution was suspended and political parties were dissolved. Many politicians were forbidden from entering politics again. The military power ruling the country established a “Constituent Assembly”, as had been done in 1961. The Constituent Assembly was composed of the National Security Council and the Advisory Assembly. Within two years, the new constitution was drafted and was presented to the referendum on November 7, 1982. Participation in the referendum was 91.27%. As a result, the 1982 Constitution was passed with 91.37% of the votes.
The greatest change brought about by the 1982 Constitution was the unicameral parliamentary system. The number of MPs were 550 members. The executive was empowered and new and more definite limitations were introduced on fundamental rights and freedoms. Except for these aspects, the 1982 Constitution greatly resembled the 1961 Constitution.
The 1982 Constitution, from the time it was accepted until the present time, has undergone many changes, especially the “integration laws”, which have been introduced within the framework of the European Union membership process, and which has led to a fundamental evolution.
After the 2017 constitutional referendums, the first general election of the Assembly would under a presidential system, with an executive president which have the power to dissolve the Assembly. The new Assembly would increase the number of MPs from 550 to 600.