July 11, 2014

Government creates enemies to survive

Lale Kemal

Turkey has never had the fully independent and impartial judiciary necessary in any democratic state for justice to largely be done. The justice system, on the contrary, has been used and is still being used by state actors, individuals or the mafia as a legal tool to cover up illegal acts that would normally constitute a crime. Only the actors in Turkey have been changed, largely, and they abuse the judicial system to promote their own interests.

For instance, the Turkish military used Article 35 of the Internal Service Law, authored by itself, as the legal basis for the staging of military coups from 1960 to 1997, to topple elected governments, and it issued two memorandums in 1971 and 2007, with the latter backfiring, when the government still in power resisted and ran in the elections, thus coming back to power.

At long last, by the government's initiative, Article 35 of the Internal Service Law was amended last year so that it can no longer provide a legal basis for those who might think about staging a coup.

A 2010 constitutional referendum, approved by public support of over 58 percent, has made possible, among other things, a change in the judicial system, paving the way for a relatively independent and impartial judiciary.

But this amendment was short-lived.

The disclosure of a high-profile corruption and bribery investigation in December of last year that implicated several Cabinet ministers, as well as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself, has prompted the government to kill even the relative independence of the judiciary that existed. With an amendment to the law, the judiciary is affiliated to the executive, in a gross violation of the separation of powers, with the apparent aim of closing the graft files, if possible, forever. Similarly, access to Twitter and YouTube was blocked to prevent the recordings of wiretapped conversations between those implicated in the graft scandal leaked to the media from being circulated repeatedly.

In a surprise move, however, the Constitutional Court canceled some of the provisions of the new judiciary law, citing its violation of the separation of powers between the executive, the judiciary and the legislative assembly. Similarly, this top court also reached a ruling that access to social media networks cannot be blocked.

Angry Erdoğan, who had long been a cause of concern in the country due to his increasing authoritarianism, brought the Constitutional Court to the center of his severe barrage of criticism because the top court had partly spoiled his plans to prevent society from further digging into the graft scandal.

And yet the Constitutional Court appears to have been determined not to bow to the pressure from Erdoğan.

Haşim Kılıç, head of the Constitutional Court, whose last name means "sword" in Turkish, has taken out his sword metaphorically, demonstrating that he and the court will make decisions in line with the rule of law.

He, for instance, reportedly told a visiting European Union delegation recently that Erdoğan wants to bring the members of the court to their knees.

But he and other members of this top court will not drop to their knees in the face of the prime minister's threats, he allegedly said.

He, in fact, addressing the Council of Europe (CoE) on July 6 in Strasbourg, where the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is located, criticized those whom he said "used public power and resources as a tool for their hatred and animosity," noting that he believes in a neutral and independent judiciary that must restrict such people, according to a Today's Zaman report on July 7.

The Constitutional Court has lately emerged as a factor in the creation of a kind of a stumbling block to deter the government from manipulating the judiciary and police organizations. Still, however, the Constitutional Court's role does not prevent the government from continuing its massive purge and smear campaign against those individuals and institutions as well as the Hizmet movement led by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, Erdoğan's one-time ally-turned-enemy, whom he has accused of trying to unseat his government.

Erdoğan and his government have reduced the powers of the military-led, fiercely secular state. It has now, however, been understood that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) made earlier military reforms, which are half-finished, to advance its own agenda of promoting authoritarianism, not democracy.

Believing that he has defeated the fiercely secular establishment, Erdoğan has now created a new enemy -- i.e., the Hizmet movement in particular and the opposition in general -- to divert attention from some negative trends occurring in the economy as well as worsening relations with neighbors in the Middle East, where upheaval and conflict have also been threatening Turkish security and stability. This strategy from Erdoğan makes people feel good and strong while consolidating his power. Though this strategy may also look clever as a way for Erdoğan and his government to further its stretch in power, it has been moving Turkey towards an unstable and ambiguous future.

Published on Today's Zaman, 10 July 2014, Thursday