Turkish house speaker counsels constitution change after headscarf ruling


Ankara : Turkish parliament speaker Koksal Toptan said Turkey’s constitution and parliamentary system needed some changes, following the Constitutional Court’s upholding of a ban on Islamic headscarves in colleges and universities, in a major blow to the government.

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The Constitutional Court did not do the right thing when it struck down a government-led constitutional amendment to allow women to wear the headscarf on campus, Toptan told a news conference here on Saturday.

He said this decision raised questions about the separation of powers and threatened the development of democracy in the country.

He believed it would be timely to debate a new constitution and a bicameral parliamentary system. Such a system, he argued, would enable the Constitutional Court to dispense its duties more easily and without pressure.

The Turkish parliament was bicameral under the 1961 constitution, but became unicameral again under the 1982 constitution, a legacy of a 1980 military coup.

In its verdict on Thursday, the Constitutional Court annulled the headscarf amendment on the grounds that it violated the principle of secularism enshrined in an important provision of the constitution.

But hardline secularists — among them the military, the judiciary and academics — see the headscarf as a symbol of political Islam and a violation of the strict separation of state and religion.

Next week the parliament will discuss the Constitutional Court’s decision, which the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) considers an infringement on the authority of the parliament.