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Going Large-Scale: The Polling Conference Process for Participatory Constitution-making in Turkey

Blog post by Oguz N. Baburoglu

In this paper, we tell the story of large-scale, nation-wide intervention for participatory constitution-making in Turkey. We believe that action researchers, deliberative democrats and civil society leaders who wish to mobilize participation in deliberative political processes on a large scale will find our story inspiring. Non-elected bodies had drafted Turkey’s 1961 and 1982 Constitutions in the aftermath of military interventions. Since 2007, unfolding political and constitutional crises have paved the way to the voicing of demands of a new constitution mainly by civil society organizations. Since then, various civil society platforms initiated participatory involvement of the wider society into the constitution-making process.

Since 2007 we, the authors – ARAMA affiliated researchers – and the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) are designing and implementing venues for fostering widespread participation into constitution-making. You are invited to read our involvement in the design and implementation of the Polling Conference [Tarama Konferansı] which is a deliberative democracy inspired large-scale conferencing methodology. For the first time in Turkey, ordinary, unaffiliated citizens and local NGO members participated in the constitution-making process via attending these conferences across the nation. We designed the Polling Conference as an efficient vehicle in collecting informed, deliberated opinion on the Constitution. The Polling Conference is a daylong meeting of randomly selected unaffiliated citizens and local NGO members in a selected city to discuss, vote and state opinion on the Constitution’s content. Teleconferencing, remote polling devices and moderated discussion were used in conferences participated by 500-1000 people in twelve different cities in Turkey. We have come to develop certain emergent themes, actions and decisions vital for success in going large-scale with action research interventions in polarized settings. Our intervention is thoroughly embedded in the Turkish context; nevertheless, the thematic approach that we developed, could set an example to nation-wide participatory initiatives in similar democratic trajectories.

Oguz N. Baburoglu & Zeynep G. Goker

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