KHRP Welcomes Decision not to Close Turkish Ruling Party but Warns of Lasting Impact of Case
KHRP welcomes the decision by Turkey’s Constitutional Court not to ban the ruling Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party, AKP), which prosecutors had accused of threatening Turkey’s secular political system. But the court’s decision, which included halving treasury funding to the AKP as a ‘serious warning’ over alleged ‘anti-secular activities’, still stands to have a grave impact on political representation in the country.
The Constitutional Court previously came into conflict with the AKP earlier this year when its judges overturned a government decision to lift a ban on female students wearing hijab on university campuses. In the latest case, six judges voted in favour of banning the party, just one short of the majority of seven needed in order to implement such a ban.
The closure case against the AKP is the most recent manifestation of decades of turbulence stemming from antagonism between supporters of the secularist, nationalist Turkish ideology and political parties they regard as a threat. The tensions have been reflected in a pattern of moves to shut down parties with religious or Kurdish associations and prosecute their members.
‘This persistent targeting of elected politicians and parties by unelected agents undermines democracy,’ said KHRP Executive Director Kerim Yildiz. ‘The decision to launch a closure case against the AKP was an extremely negative development in itself, and the Constitutional Court was careful in its ruling to send a stern message to those in politics who dare to step out of line. Looking to the future, there is a need for a comprehensive review of the Turkish Constitution and legislation relating to political parties and parliamentary immunity, in order to better protect those who the electorate choose to represent them. There should be no scope for closing parties that do not use violence or disturb civil peace.’
Islamic political parties that have previously been shut down in Turkey include the Welfare Party in 1998 and the Virtue Party in 2001. A string of pro-Kurdish parties, including the People’s Labour Party, have also been closed. Prosecutors are currently seeking a ban on the Democratic Society Party, which after elections in July 2007 became the first pro-Kurdish party to gain representation in parliament in 14 years. In total, the Constitutional Court has closed 24 political parties since its establishment in the early 1960s.
A recent KHRP briefing paper Protecting Politicians or Protecting Democracy? Parliamentary Immunity and Party Closure in Turkey is available for free download from the KHRP website here.
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