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.