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Turkey heads toward democracy

With the announcement Oct. 15 of the makeup of the 160-member Consultative Assembly, Turkey's military regime has taken a another step toward the promised return to democracy.

The Consultative Assembly will play the role of the lower house of the legislature and will start work Oct. 23. The ruling five-member National Security Council, led by Gen. Kenan Evren, will perform the duties of the upper house.

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The main task of the assembly will be to draft a new constitution, to replace the 1961 Constitution, which was suspended after the military takeover of September 1980. The drafting process is expected to last several months, and the most likely date for a public referendum on the proposed constitution is next spring. Then the assembly will devote its time to drafting two crucial laws - a political parties act and an elections act.

It is uncertain whether the assembly will deal with other projected laws, such as a labor union act and a law on public demonstrations.

The Consultative Assembly will have, as its name suggests, a strictly consultative capacity. All its actions will have to be approved by the ruling generals.

At this stage, it is not known yet how the constitutional draft will be proposed,but it is clear that the assembly will prepare a constitution differing in many respects from the previous one, and in line with the views of the generals.

Some critics maintain that the assembly will be a sort of rubber-stamp body. They also express opposition to it because it has been handpicked and not elected by the people. However, most foreign observers here agree that after what Turkey has gone through in recent months, the new assmbly is just what could be expected, and still should be accepted as progress toward the return to a democratic system.

One of the major changes expected to be made in the Constitution is to grant stronger powers to the president - including the power to dissolve parliament when necessary. Whatever the final version of the Constitution, it appears that the next president will not be a figurehead as in the past.

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