110-The Constitution Act

THE CONSTITUTION ACT.

Fundamental Provisions.

1. The sovereignty belongs to the nation, without restriction and without conditions. The system of administration is founded on the principle that the people are actually and individually guiding their own destiny.

2. The executive power and the legislative power are vested in the Grand National Assembly and find their expression in it; it is the only real representation of the nation.

3. The Turkish State is governed by the Grand National Assembly, and its Government bears the name of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.

4. The Grand National Assembly consists of members elected by the population of the Vilayets.

5. The elections for the Grand National Assembly take place every two years. The mandate of the elected members lasts for two years, but this period may be extended. The retiring Assembly exercises its functions until the new Assembly meets. If anything occurs to pre vent the new elections taking place, the legislative term may be prolonged for one year. Each member of the Grand National Assembly is not the special representative of the province which has elected him. The combined body of deputies constitutes the representation of the whole nation.

6. The Grand National Assembly meets in the beginning of No vember in a f ull sitting without being specially convened for the purpose.

7. Fundamental rights, such as the execution of decisions regard ing religion, the promulgation of all the laws, their amendment and repeal, the conclusion of peace and the signing of treaties, the pro clamation of a state of defence in our country, are all vested in the Grand National Assembly.

Provisions concerning religious rights and those legal provisions that conform most appropriately to the relations between private in dividuals or to the exigencies of the time, as well as customary usage, constitute the basis upon which the laws and stipulations are drafted. The rights and responsibilities of the Council of Ministers are defined by special enactments.

8. The Grand National Assembly administers the different depart ments of the Government by Ministers elected according to a special law. The necessary lines of direction, which may be altered if it should become necessary, for the affairs of the executive power are indicated to the Ministers by the Assembly.

9. The President elected by the Grand National Assembly in a full sitting is President of the Assembly for the duration of the legis lative term. In this capacity he is competent to sign on behalf of the Assembly and to sanction the resolutions of the Council of Ministers.

The Council of Ministers elects the President from among them selves, the President of the Grand National Assembly is, however, at the same time by right President of the Council of Ministers.

II. The provisions of the Constitution which are not in contra diction to the above clauses still remain in force. I call Your High- ness s attention specially to the fact that it is impossible for us to act in a manner that is contrary to the fundamental provisions I have just quoted, for we have no authority to do so. The Council of Mi nisters has been authorised to consider the question referred to in correspondence with the President of the Assembly.

Mustapha Kemal, President of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.

The Constitution Act, the fundamental clauses of which are quoted in the telegram I have just read to you, had been passed by the Assembly barely ten days before this date, that is to say, on the 20 th January.

This is the first Act that describes and defines the position, rights, constitution and character of the Assembly and the National Govern ment. The Assembly commenced its sittings on the 23 rd April, 1920, and about nine months elapsed before the Assembly was able to pass this fundamental Act. Let me tell you briefly why this was necessary.

You are aware that after the opening of the Assembly I intro duced a motion explaining the fundamental principles which had uncon ditionally to be observed. The Assembly and its Council of Ministers had from the very first day begun to adopt these principles in practice. On the other hand, the committee that drafted the Constitution Bill had been appointed to draft it on the basis of these principles. At last, after four months had elapsed, this committee submitted eight clauses of the Bill under the title of “Legal provisions concern ing the constitution and character of the Grand National Assembly.” These clauses, the discussion of which had begun on the i8 th August on an urgent motion, contained at the same time a rather considerable amount of controversial matter.

One paragraph of the draft submitted by the committee contained the following with regard^ to the definition of the Grand National Assembly :

Considering that it would mean giving a final character to the exceptional and critical situation if we were to accept the permanency of our Assembly which has been formed under the stress of necessity due to an accumulation of facts, such as the imprisonment of the Caliph and Sultan, and on the principle that abnormal situations cannot last for ever, it has been regarded as appropriate that the Assembly should continue until respect for the rights of the Caliphate and the Monarchy has been restored and the independence of the nation and country have been assured. The Assembly will assume a normal form only when these sacred aims, which are paramount, are realised. For this reason, the meaning of the first paragraph of Article 2 has been limited to the expression: “Until this aim has been realised.”

In reality the sitting of the Assembly had neither been fixed nor limited to a definite period

In reality the sitting of the Assembly had neither been fixed nor limited to a definite period.

Therefore, and in consideration of these remarks, it becomes evi dent that the idea still prevailed in August that the position and permanent character of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey were not normal.

The first clause of the Bill was drafted to this effect:

“The legislative and executive power is vested in the Grand National Assembly, which is actually and in an independent form above the administration and the State Government.” As the law stands, it is evident that the full power vested in the Assembly by this clause was only of a provisional nature. The authority of the Assembly as a provisional institution could similarly only be of a temporary character.

The conceptions and opinions of the committee on the Constitution Act were expressed to the same effect in the Assembly. There were even some deputies who, in order to define the intention in a clearer way, put forward proposals which were contrary to the expose of the committee. They said: “At the beginning of the first article there must be specially added the words: Until the liberation of the Cali phate and the Sultanate and the attainment of the independence of the country and the nation. 5 ”

It was demanded that instead of the words appearing in the second article “until the realisation of the aim,” the same long formula should be employed. This question produced long discussions. Some deputies were of opinion that only the word “Caliphate” should be used, because it included the “Sultanate”.

Some of the Hodjas did not agree, and maintained that the Cali phate was a purely spiritual matter. This gave rise to the objection that the Caliphate had no sacerdotal character, to which the Hodja Effendis replied by saying: The Monarchy comprises only the land over which it rules; but the Caliphate embraces Islam, which exists all over the world.”

These discussions lasted for many days. One of the ideas which met with opposition was: The Caliph and Padishah exists and will continue to exist. As long as he exists, the present regime is only provisional. When the Caliphate and Monarchy have the oppor tunity of again exercising their functions we shall know what the appearance of the Constitution and the political organisation will be like.

It is not a question of erecting something new. Until the Caliphate and the Monarchy are able to exercise their functions once more a number of men assembled at Angora will work with the help of temporary measures.

The ideas in opposition to this were not very clear. It could be declared openly that the sovereignty had been transferred to the nation; there is no longer any monarchy, Caliphate has the same meaning as Sultanate and consequently has no longer any right to exist.

Thirty-seven days later, on the 25 ^ September, I considered it necessary to make certain explanations to the Assembly at a secret sitting. After I had satisfied the prevailing conceptions, I developed the following ideas:

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