Tag Archives: Constitutional Court

Turkish Government Awaits Constitution Court Decision

The Turkish government is experiencing turmoil and conflict as it awaits news from the Constitutional Court as to its decision of banning or not banning the ruling Justice and Development Party(AKP) as a legal political organization. The Court is reviewing a case brought by the Public Prosecutor who charges the AKP with seeking to undermine the Turkish constitution by working to end its secular base and institute a Muslim centered society which will govern on the basis of sharia law. In recent days, ultra nationalist leaders have urged Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, to stand down from politics if his party is banned in order to avoid further conflict in society. In parliamentary debate, Erdogan disregarded the request, and stated bluntly, “if a politician decides to stand down from politics, it will be due to the will of the people,” not because of a judicial decision.

Deniz Baykal, of the opposition Republican People’s Party, argued Turkey is fast approaching a decision if the Constitutional Court decides to ban the AKP. “Will Turkey remain a modern nation or become a weird Islamic state of the Middle East?”

However, there is a third option which Erdogan and many members of the AKP are urging– creation of a modern nation which respects the rights of its religious members while also respecting the rights of those who believe in secular principles. If this third path is taken, it offers a model for the entire Middle East.

Turkish Leader Causes Turmoil In Nation

The Turkish Constitutional Court is currently deliberating over charges brought by the Public Prosecutor who believes the ruling Justice and Development Party(AKP) intends to end the secular nature of the nation and institute a Muslim sharia law mentality. At this critical time in the history of his nation, Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat, deputy leader of the AKP decides to give an interview to the New York Times in which he attacks the revolutionary goals of Ataturk, who created the modern Turkish nation as one founded on secular values. Naturally, M. Firat is backtracking and claiming he was misunderstood, but his words have allowed critics to claim the deputy leader was merely revealing to the world, the true nature of the Justice and Development Party to end secularism.

Perhaps, Mr.Firat was misunderstood, but it also reflects a weakness of the AKP which has failed to clearly articulate its goals in such a manner as to reassure secular leaders in Turkey there is no intention to impose religious law. Leaders of the opposition Republican People’s Party and the Democratic Left Party have used his words to challenge the stated goals of the AKP.

An unknown factor is the reaction of Turkish military leaders to these words.

Does Turkey Need A New Political Alignment?

The people of Turkey are gearing up for radical changes in their political structure if the Constitutional Court decides to close down the Justice and Development Party(AKP) on grounds it has violated the constitution by emphasizing changes such as allowing females to wear the headscarf in universities. The Constitutional Court and high ranking military leaders remain the bastion behind guarding secular rights in their country. If the AKP is termed an illegal political organization then the Turkish political configuration must be altered. There are rumors, Abdullah Sener, one of the five founders of the Justice and Development Party is considering the possibility of creating a new center-right political party which will cooperate with secular leaders in forging a new coalition which can bring together both secular and religious leaders.

Speaking from the outside of Turkey, one notes legitimate concerns on the part of both religious and secular minded Turks. Perhaps, a mistake made by the AKP in ending the headscarf ban was failing to make clear it only dealt with the headscarf and was not the initial step in the imposition of sharia law ideas upon the population. Fears are not always based on reality, but if fears persist they must be addressed.

Turkish Groups March To Protest Coup Attempts

This weekend will witness thousands of groups from many nongovernmental groups marching in silent protest against attempts to stage a “coup” in their nation. Many Turks are upset at the ruling of the Constitutional Court which declared illegal legislative attempts to lift the ban on women wearing the headscarf at the universities. A representative of the Young Civilians said “it will be a silent march so there will be no flags or banners or slogans. We will be dressed in white from head to toe and will say no to coup attempts.” Many groups believe the Constitutional Court is prepared in the coming days to declare the Justice and Development Party(AKP) to be illegal because of its alleged attempts to install an Islamic code of conduct within the nation.

The Justice and Development Party currently holds 341 of the 550 seats in parliament and is facing charges by the Public Prosecutor of attempting to install an Islamic society upon Turkey’s traditional secular base. The AKP denies the charges and many groups in Turkey interpret actions by the Constitutional Court as equivalent of being a coup since it is rejecting the will of the people by disbanding a party which garnered 47% of the vote in the last election.

Perhaps, it is time for a meeting of all political parties to hammer out procedures that guarantee the continuance of Turkey’s secular centered society while still respecting the rights of people to be practicing Muslims.

Turkey Closure Case Drawing To Conclusion

The case brought by the Turkish Public Prosecutor against the Justice and Development Party(AKP)for seeking to install a Muslim based government that would end the nation’s secular institutions and beliefs is rapidly coming to a conclusion The AKP responded to the Prosecutor’s charges with a 90 page document that, in effect, claims he was derelict in his responsibilities to present a legal document rather than one which is characterized by assumptions and future speculations. He completely rejected the charge of being a “focal point of anti-secularist activity” arguing that was an assumption unsupported by any actual evidence. The AKP also emphasized the very concept of closing down a political party which has the support of most people in a nation is in violation of the European Court of Human Rights.

Inherent in the case brought by the Public Prosecutor are several assumptions concerning what will occur in the future if the AK party is allowed to continue functioning as an arm of the government. It did support allowing females to wear a headscarf in the university, but that does not constitute overthrowing Turkey’s secular traditions. The real issue is not whether females can wear a headscarf in the university but whether that practice will filter down through Turkish secondary schools and compel all girls to wear a headscarf.

The Justice and Development Party stated clearly: “In fact, the AK Party has not become the focal point of deeds against the law but is serving the nation, human rights, democracy, brotherhood, tolerance and the love of Turkey.”

Secular sections of Turkey have justifiable fears that must be addressed by the AKP. Perhaps, its greatest failure as a political organization is an inability to reach out to secular groups and leaders.

Turkey Poses Interesting Case Of Democracy To EU

The conflict raging within Turkey over issues pertaining to the rights of those with strong religious views and those who fear fundamentalist Muslims seek to impose their ideas on the entire population is raising rather complex problems for the European Union. On one hand, the EU wants nations to have governments based on separation of powers and the right of opposing political parties to be heard. On the other hand, the EU does not want religious values and ideas imposed on a population. These two opposing concepts are currently dividing Turkish society. A case brought to the Constitutional Court seeks to ban the ruling Justice and Development Party on grounds it has violated the Turkish constitution by seeking to impose religious practices in secular institutions. Issues in this case exemplify the quandary facing the EU. Which takes precedence– secular rights or the right of a political party to exist?

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan also has a dilemma. Does he attend the special session being held by the EU group PACE to discuss the issue? Does he abstain to avoid making comments by the government while a court case is pending? The opposition Republican People’s Party is furious at Babacan and wants him to remain silent. To add to the complexity of the current situation, many political leaders in Turkey are upset at attempts by the EU to influence internal Turkish issues.

There is no simple solution to these issues. In some manner, all Turkish political parties have to create a solution which protects the rights of secular groups while granting those with strong religious values a right to education.

Turkey Confronts Constitutional Crisis

Democratic nations invariably confront moments in their history when core principles of government emerge to separate political parties. The recent decision by Turkey’s Constitutional Court to declare illegal recent legislation passed by the Justice and Development Party(AKP) that would allow females to wear a headscarf in universities has ripped asunder normal political relations between opposing parties. The opposition People’s Republican Party(CHP) believes the religious oriented AKP seeks to transform their nation into one governed by sharia law and is now ready to destroy the power of courts to halt that goal from being achieved.

Prime MInister Erdogan of the AKP insists his party has a legitimate right to pass legislation and the courts have no power to interfere with parliamentary action. Deniz Baykal of the CHP argues there are fundamental principles embedded in any society which can not be altered and modern Turkey is founded on the principle of secularism. He believes the nation will experience a terrible conflict if Erdogan tries to push through legislation which ends the power of Turkey’s courts to interpret the Constitution.

Perhaps, it is time for all political parties to step back and find ways to meet basic needs of all members of society. The underlying fear of secular Turks is action by the AKP to push through religious policies which undermine secularism. How can those fears be pacified?

Headscarf War Continues Dividing Turkey

The aftermath of Turkey’s Constitutional Court decision which invalidated a parliament action in lifting the ban on women wearing a headscarf continues to bitterly divide the nation. Ahmet Iyimaya, of the ruling Justice and Development Party(AKP) which pushed through the end of the ban, proposed parliamentary action which would invalidate the Constitutional Court’s decision. He is proposing a constitutional amendment which allows Parliament to suspend decisions of the Constitutional Court. There has been no indication from AKP leaders of support for his proposal.

However, the opposition Republican People’s Party(CHP) vigorously opposed any such action which, in effect, ends the concept of an independent judiciary by making the Constitutional Court an ineffectual body.

This is a situation in which opposing sides each raise valid concerns. The right of women who wear a headscarf requires some process which would allow them to attend a university while still respecting the rights of secular women not to be intimidated for refusing to wear one. This is the crux of the entire debate. Secular Turkish women fear allowing wearing a headscarf at the university is the first step toward making it mandatory at secondary schools. They worry about peer pressure on young girls that will end up in all girls wearing a headscarf throughout the education system. Unless the concerns of both sides are respected this controversy will continue.

European Union Skeptical of Closure Case In Turkey

There is growing concern in many European nations over efforts by defenders of secularism in Turkey to use the court system in an effort to destroy the ruling Justice and Development Party(AKP) whose leaders are accused of seeking to impose a strict Muslim code of behavior on the nation. Guther Krichbaum, chair of an EU committee, said the closure case “will be a litmus test to prove how strong the democracy in Turkey is. We are convinced that Turkey will finally choose the responsbile way to get out of this crisis.” The Constitutional Court on March 31 agreed to hear a case brought by the chief prosecutor which would result in driving from power the AKP on grounds it violates Turkey’s secular constitution.

Most European leaders are concerned that a political party which was freely elected could be forced from power by a non-elected court even though no evidence has ever been presented that AKP leaders are advocating any form of volence. The political arena should be the scene of discussion, not a court which will rely on statements made through the years by AKP leaders. The central issue is the presence of any evidence AKP leaders are threatening the rights of opposition parties.

The only example of “Islamisation” brought by opponents is the decision to allow female students at the university to wear a headscarf on collge grounds. There undoubtedly are examples at the local level where city authorities banned the sale of alcohol, but no such effort has ever been made in the Turkish parliament.

Council Of Europe Supports Turkish Government

The current Turkish government led by President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan of the Justice and Development Party(AKP) received support from the Council of Europe which regards the current court case aimed at closing down political parties to be ill advised. The key issue for the Council of Europe is the presence of any evidence the AKP is advocating violence or attempting to curtail the freedom of other political parties. No such evidence is apparent and the Council of Europe emphasized: “It is better to have political issues like these settled by ballots, and these issues discussed openly in Parliament and the media” rather than have a court decide which political party is legal or illegal.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe(PACE) urged Turkish courts to respect the rights of political parties and avoid closing them since such action impinged on the right of freedom of speech. The Turkish Constitutional Court is concerned about the emergence of a potential Islamic state which would suppress secular rights of its citizens. As of now, there is no evidence the AKP is moving in that direction and to assume it will move toward such ends risks undermining the basic right of free speech. One can be punished for what is done not what a judicial body believes may or may not be done.