No, I am most certainly not getting into the judicial details. The news is plainly that the Constitutional Court annulled parts of changes that the government made to the constitution, and that the remaining changes will be put to a referendum in September. This referendum will be a test case for governing party AKP: how much support will there be for the changes they proposed, and how solid is the rank and file support of the AKP?
The Constitutional Court annulled changes that concern the reform of judicial bodies, mainly to the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). The appointment of the members of the Board will be arranged slightly differently than the way the AKP proposed. If the Constitutional Court had annulled the whole package, the AKP would have announced early elections, but that’s off now.
In the discussion on the constitutional changes, a whole lot of people seem to suddenly be legal experts. I read the proposed changes to the constitution too, but how can I comment on it without having a solid legal background? What are the real implications of increasing the number of judges in the HSYK, and of members of parliament the president electing (some of the) members? I have worked with legal experts (but in a totally different field of expertise, namely copyright) and it always struck me how many sides and implications certain words or phrases can have.
Add to that that many people interpret the changes according to their political stance, hardly anybody looks at them purely as a legal matter. The wildest implications are made about where the constitutional changes could lead to and comparisons are made with other periods in history (don’t forget the Weimar Republic and the powers that later took over in Germany!). Also every paper finds legal experts that suit their political view: Zaman finds a group that is totally in support of the changes, Cumhuriyet finds a few who explain all the risks involved. Nobody in Turkey seems to be able to escape the polarization that characterizes this country so much.
Asking legal experts outside Turkey is a way to get a more objective view; they are not part of the polarizations going on here, they are not driven by total support of the AKP or by suspicion of the party. For me, it means something that the Council of Europe and all its specialized legal advisory groups support the constitutional changes as proposed. They judge the changes bring the Turkish judiciary more in line with European standards, which AKP says was the goal. You can call that an arrogant European view, or a view of some naïve people who refuse to see the dangers represented by the AKP government.
Turks who are against the constitutional changes point out how the AKP can misuse them, and how the AKP MP’s will appoint the judges to the court that they like. But it doesn’t seem to get through to anybody that the AKP will not be in charge for ever. I would say: if you don’t like the AKP government, use all your democratic rights to change who’s in charge. Re-invent your political party, find a way to appeal to the public, campaign, contribute, discuss, protest, and try to be a real alternative to the AKP. Not based on just being against them, but based on what you support, what you have to offer Turkey for the future. Then democracy will turn the tide.
I think this gets close to the heart of a number of problems with Turkey’s political culture at this point in time. First, the tendency for people both pro- and anti- the government to assume entrenched positions on the basis not of evidence or critical thought but of the mood music on ‘their side’. The reluctance to deal with ambiguity, the insistence that everything comes down to a binary division between the clearly right choice and the clearly wrong one, is crippling.
And second, crucially, the absence of a commitment to constructive opposition politics on the anti-AKP side. I find this quite odd, given that those who oppose AKP would tend to see themselves as defenders of Turkey’s European/Enlightenment/democatic vocation. Yet the way they do politics is notably more ‘top down’ and remote than the stuffing envelopes and knocking on doors that still characterises political campaigns in much of Europe.
I can’t claim to have read/interviewed widely on it, but it appears that AKP has been much more efficient at putting an infrastructure in place that allows it to reach out directly to much larger numbers of potential electors than its opponents. Now, one option is to see that as a sinister scheme to buy votes or to create/exploit ties of religious affiliation. An alternative is to look westward and see that it’s bread-and-butter electoral tactics for parties with a brain.
Turkey’s main opposition party, CHP, made a strategic decision over a long number of years to try operating with Deniz Baykal instead of a brain. It wasn’t a decision that worked out for them. Now that he is gone, there is a window for an intensification of the democratic process in this country that shouldn’t be squandered. All those who passionately want to see the back of this government should consider spending a little less time talking about the abyss into which we’re about to plunge, and a little more time crafting a political alternative and convincing their fellow citizens of its merits.
Yes, the polarisation is incredible. A very good friend of mine (a good generation older than me) whom I love very much actually keeps tracks of which companies are supporting AKP and actually boycotts them! Apparently she has got some folders with such info!And she is a very clever woman. As you said you belong to one camp or the other and use everything as argument to support your camp.
It is such a shame that a lot of those arguments are irrational fears. Instead of concentrating on the substance and actual, they prefer to do so on complot theory and hidden agenda.
I am sorry but why would I not believe what they say and believe someone’s complot theory?
I would not trust anyone showing me someone and saying “This is the enemy, everything they do is evil” without proper explanation. I cannot stand politics of fear, it is so basic and primitive.
Also as you rightly said (according to me) we have a very good and professional benchmark in the EU and Venice commission. I am no expert either but as long as there is no explicitly threatening language such as “Sharia law is brought in” and that similar infrastructures for high courts and constitutional court exist in Europe then it is fine for me. But people would tell me that EU is against Turkey, everyone is against TUrkey, this is why they support the package which will ultimately doom Turkey!!
I would find it a waste if a YES was not winning on the 12th of September.
But I can already condemn the attitude of the opposition. Those CHP and MHP are from another time, certainly not the 21st century. They are a shame and should evolve. They should be constructive and participate. They even refuse to meet AKP, this is really laughable and actually a very serious problem for Turkey. I am worried by them, not AKP who somehow transformed the country for the better in the last 7 years!
CHP had a good opportunity to do the right thing and say “OK this is not all bad we should vote YES for the country” but of course this is not the case.
Finally an argument I recently used too is that AKP will not be here forever so the foreseen problems and apocalypse are not valid. They are just projections if AKP stays in power for many many years. That said if the opposition don’t get their act together quickly this is just what might happen! 😉
I would prefer to have non religious people in power, with a way of life more like mine but unfortunately at the moment in Turkey those are the ones who get things done, who do reforms, who bring Turkey closer to being a full democracy. Certainly it is not CHP and currently I am not expecting much from CHP. Maybe it is one of those old dinosaurs soon to be extinct. Then a new party should be born which will enlighten Turkey.
Additionally, regarding AKP, it is clear that they are extremely well organised. A simple example was when I checked in 2007 their website vs CHP (CHP’s website a laugh) I found so much detailed information, at procedure level explaining even the different size of their logo, how to use them for branding etc. This was public information, so my guess in private they are hugely efficient and organised while CHP is more of an amateur. We will see how each side explains the reasons for its vote, I am waiting for CHP which should have a hard time explaining it. If the constitutional court gave its green light to most of the package how could CHP use the fact that it somehow threatens the independence of judges etc…
wait and see.