The Republican People's Party (CHP) has submitted its proposal amending Article 35 of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) Internal Service Code, which has served as the legal basis for coup perpetrators, to Parliament. The proposal reads: "The duty of the TSK is to protect the Turkish motherland and the Turkish Republic as defined in the Constitution within the framework of the functionality of the parliamentary democratic system and the Constitution."
The proposal was undersigned by CHP Deputy Chairman Süha Okay and parliamentary group deputy chairman Muharrem İnce. The two deputies inserted the phrase "within the framework of the functionality of the parliamentary democratic system and the Constitution" and omitted the redundant Turkish verb meaning ‘to watch over.’
The current text of the article reads: “The duty of the TSK is to protect and watch over the Turkish motherland and the Turkish Republic as delineated by the Constitution.” In the explanatory section of the proposal, it is noted that Turkey has witnessed a number of military coups and that democratic rule has been repeatedly interrupted since the introduction of the multiparty political system.
The proposal maintains that while the article in question does not contain a clear provision facilitating military coups, it has still frequently been used to legitimize coups. The proposition reads, “It is obvious that Article 35 of the TSK Internal Service Code was used as a legal basis for coups.” Stressing that no provision of the Constitution can be used to justify a coup, it referred to Article 6 of the Constitution, which states, “Sovereignty unconditionally belongs to the nation,” and which clearly prohibits any person or institution from utilizing a state-like authority that does not derive from the Constitution.
“As the Internal Service Code does not contain any other provision concerning the general duties of the TSK, the complete deletion of the article from the code is not recommended as this might create ambiguity over [the military’s] duties. The proposed text ensures that the TSK performs its duty to protect the Turkish motherland and the Turkish republic as defined in the Constitution within the framework of the functionality of the parliamentary democratic system and the Constitution. This prevents abuse of authority that does not derive from the Constitution and which relies only on Article 35, and obstructs any interpretation of the article that would allow for the interruption of the parliamentary system,” the proposal also states.
Meanwhile Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, who spoke on Habertürk TV on Thursday, mentioned how the TSK Internal Service Code had served as a justification for coup perpetrators. Arınç argued that Gen. Kenan Evren -- Turkey’s seventh president and the former general who led the Sept. 12, 1980, coup -- used the language referring to the military’s duty to protect the Turkish Republic when announcing the coup. He said: “Some people believe that a coup is necessary to protect the Republic of Turkey. In addition, they believe that they can carry out a military coup, if Turkey’s situation worsens. [The] people who were prepared the military coup were executed, while those [referring to Evren] who managed the coup become the leaders of Turkey.”
Highlighting that Article 35 should be abolished, Arınç said the Constitution should not encourage a military coup. Criticizing the CHP’s offer to change but not abolish Article 35, Arınç called on the CHP to convene to discuss whether Article 35 should be abolished or not.