The difficulty of defending a coup-era judicial system

 AL? ASLAN KILIÇ, ANKARA


Justice Minister Ergin (L) attended a meeting of the parliamentary Justice Commission last Friday.

The democratic lawyers of the opposition are going through difficult times. It is not as bad for those who have put their ideological stance before their identity as legal experts. They even call on the public to organize protests and take to the streets like in Tunisia.
The limited number of democratic lawyers explains the difficult situation they face with words such as these: “Until yesterday we were talking about the bottleneck in the judicial system. We were saying that democracy could not be established until institutions from the coup era were civilianized. Now we defend the judicial system of the coup era. This is really hard to accept.”
A major leg of the judicial reform is meant to increase the number of members and chambers in the Council of State and the Supreme Court of Appeals. A debate that was sparked in relation to the heavy workload of the higher judiciary and the release of suspects due to the statute of limitations for trial durations has deepened and developed a new dimension.

While the main opposition is claiming that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is trying to make the higher judiciary an AK Party crony, AK Party officials respond by saying: “The judiciary is already politicized. These changes aren’t limiting the judiciary nor are they placing it under AK Party control. On the contrary, the judiciary is becoming the public’s judiciary. The judiciary is being freed from Republican People’s Party [CHP] domination.”

Tension peaked when the bill was being debated in the parliamentary Justice Commission. The CHP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) asked that the bill be sent back to the lower commission and modified, taking into consideration the views of the higher judiciary. The AK Party rejected the proposal, noting that the views of the higher judiciary had already been taken into account. In return, the opposition did everything it could to stall debates on the bill.

The AK Party’s determination to finalize debates on the bill and to send it to the General Assembly caused CHP deputies to increase their criticism.

Objecting to the limited amount of time allocated to members of the commission on each article and limitations on the number of proposals, CHP deputies said they quit the commission and left the meeting. While this unusual event for a specialized parliamentary commission showed the depth of the CHP’s frustration, it also revealed the increasing number of members and chambers in the higher judiciary who are truly willing to bring the judicial system more in line with the public’s interests.

Even the higher courts, which complain about working under a heavy workload and formerly asked the government in writing to increase the number of members and chambers, are now saying that “there is no need for it.” What is the meaning of this sudden change of heart?

The higher judiciary wanted the number of members and chambers to be increased by members from the former Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), which consisted of a five-person caste system. It does not want members of the new HSYK, which was formed after the referendum, to have the same authority.

The judiciary, which has the poorest performance in terms of reforming itself, has fallen extremely behind in meeting the public’s needs. The judiciary’s inability to improve itself makes it hard to solve problems and hinders the country’s development. It’s hard to understand opposition to judicial reform when the country is facing a bottleneck regarding basic problems such as the Kurdish and Alevi issues.

If the bill is enacted, the public will finally have a guarantee of justice, and Turkey will be able to make substantial progress in ensuring political stability as the quest for power backed by the judiciary and bureaucracy comes to an end. With a judicial system that is no longer outdated, Turkey will be able to make major headway in achieving its vision for 2023.

Sincerity important in politics to convince voters

With the first month of the year coming to an end, political parties are increasing their activities. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an is holding the usual rallies in the provinces, and CHP and MHP leaders are trying to come up with ways to increase their number of voters.

CHP leader Kemal K?l?çdaro?lu is trying to stay away from discourse on “secular ideology,” which was the main rhetoric of the Deniz Baykal era. He is also distancing himself from the party’s pro-status quo image and trying to send messages about poverty and some social groups.

The MHP administration, facing serious problems in renewing itself, is highlighting the need for the nationalist movement to develop a new discourse in light of the realities of the new world, but is having trouble putting this into practice. The traditional “the country is being divided, the country is being sold” discourse continues to have weight in the party’s campaigning, but this discourse will fall short of meeting the constituency’s expectations if new terrorism-related provocations do not take place.

As for Prime Minister Erdo?an, he is acting carefully not to give the impression that he is “playing the politics game” when speaking to crowds or visiting small groups and families. What makes the prime minister successful is his “sincere and natural” stance. The style he has adopted both during house visits in A?r? and his interview with journalists in Ukraine has reminded people of his sincere and genuine character.

Noting that his party does not interfere in people’s lifestyles, Erdo?an asked people to attribute his remarks about how people drink until they gag to his tense and stressful workload, and added that there are moments when he succumbs to stress as well. He said people should take it as something that happened because of the stress of the moment and that everyone can make mistakes.

It’s not easy to get politicians, and especially people in power, to admit their mistakes. Prime Minister Erdo?an, CHP leader K?l?çdaro?lu and MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli all occasionally accept their mistakes and show people their more human side. As tensions rise in the next couple of weeks, leaders who maintain their traditional lines will please their traditional constituents, while leaders who appear genuine, natural and sincere will be able to win over new voters more easily.

An alarming CHP-MHP solidarity ahead of parliamentary elections

With the general elections just months away, the governing party and the opposition are assessing the judicial reform in different ways. AK Party legal experts, who embarked on this journey saying “Let’s present the bill to Parliament, and if we can, we will enact it this term, if not the next,” are now in a very different place. They are working very hard to get the bill passed as soon as they can, leading to the opposition heightening its resistance as well. Deputies from the opposition and particularly from the MHP stress that debating this issue before the elections will increase the AK Party’s votes. They also note that tension between the two sides will have a negative affect on the percentage of voters who vote for them.

Something else worrying MHP deputies is the impression that they are aligning themselves with the CHP. MHP constituents include nationalist conservatives and the MHP administration believes presenting the MHP as a coalition partner with the CHP has caused them to lose at least two points in the polls.

Although the CHP and MHP had joined forces regarding judicial reform based on these fears, it did not last very long. MHP deputies, who spoke as harshly as CHP deputies on the first day the Justice Commission convened, only worked half the day on the second day. In protest the CHP deputies resigned from the commission and left the meeting. Only one MHP member was left on the commission. The other MHP deputies had already left when tension heightened within the commission.


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