23 November 2023
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The Individual Application Mechanism is on the Verge of Collapse, and so is Turkish Constitutionalism

Turkey is plunged into yet another profound judicial crisis as the Turkish Constitutional Court (TCC) and the Turkish Court of Cassation (Yargıtay) lock horns over the fate of an imprisoned opposition politician. While two earlier posts published on Verfassungsblog have already meticulously dissected this unfolding judicial drama (here and here), we aim to invigorate the debate with a fresh vantage point. In this piece, we will narrow the focus to one key actor: the TCC. More particularly, we will delve into the implications this evolving judicial crisis holds for the future of the TCC's individual application mechanism.

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15 November 2023

Downhill All The Way

On November 8th, the 3rd Criminal Chamber of Turkey's Court of Cassation, the nation's apex court for civil and criminal matters, defied the Constitutional Court (the TCC) and explicitly accused it of engaging in “judicial activism.” The judicial feud between the two high courts stemmed from the individual application of Can Atalay, an opposition MP from the Workers Party of Turkey (TİP), challenging his ongoing imprisonment despite obtaining parliamentary immunity in the May 2023 elections. Indeed, the 3rd Chamber's wholly ungrounded defiance is a failure of the constitutional order, illustrating how the Constitution no longer serves its core function of authoritatively channeling, restraining, and organizing state power. However, the Atalay controversy is neither unprecedented nor a true turning point in Turkey's ailing democracy—it is just another symptom of a deepening dysfunction.

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14 November 2023
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The Rule of Arbitrariness as the New Constitutional Order in Turkey

Nearly two weeks after the 100th-anniversary celebrations of the Republic, Turkey's constitutional order faced one of the most significant judicial crises in its history when the Court of Cassation, the highest court of ordinary jurisdiction, and the Turkish Constitutional Court (TCC) clashed over the fate of imprisoned opposition politician Can Atalay. How should we interpret this constitutional crisis? Is it the death of constitutionalism in Turkey? Is it an attempt to test the boundaries of legitimacy before establishing the rules of a new constitutional order?

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31 Oktober 2023

Strasburg Weighs In On Political Persecution In Turkey

In a pivotal judgment delivered by the Grand Chamber, the European Court of Human Rights held that the conviction of a former teacher Yüksel Yalcinkaya violated Articles 6,7 and 11 of the Convention. The applicant Yalcinkaya was a teacher who was dismissed with an emergency decree enacted during the state of emergency rule between 2016 and 2018 and was subsequently prosecuted and convicted for his use of the ByLock app and for his membership in a teachers’ union and an association which were also closed down with an emergency decree. In Erdogan’s ever more repressive Turkey, usage of said app or membership in organizations and unions may lead to arrest. Especially anything that appears remotely related to the oppositional Gulen movement carries the risk of persecution.

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14 Juni 2023
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Taking Separation of Powers Seriously

In Turkey's recent election, 15 ministers from the Justice and Development Party, chaired by President Erdoğan, were nominated as parliamentary candidates and elected as MPs on 14 May. Since none of the presidential candidates won an overall majority, two leading candidates, Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu competed in a runoff vote on 28 May, in which Erdoğan secured the victory. Thus, the new ministers were neither appointed nor took office until after the runoff vote. Throughout this process, the former ministers, including the 15 elected as MPs, preserved their executive posts and titles. Should the 15 Erdoğan government ministers have resigned to run for parliamentary candidacy? And is there a constitutional incompatibility between ministerial and MP titles? The law is not always clear on these questions. This lack of clarity, we argue, can have serious consequences for the balance of power in a newly established governmental system.

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02 Juni 2023

Boiling the Frog

In the wake of Turkey's recent presidential elections, previous blogposts objected to characterizing authoritarian regimes such as Turkey, Hungary and India as ‘competitive’ solely by virtue of regular elections, which are formally free but fundamentally unfair. However, this blogpost argues that the prior ones missed the main problem in Turkey: The playing field in Turkey is not only “massively tilted in favor of Erdogan” now; it has always been tilted in favor of the majority – long before Erdoğan. This blogpost discusses the slow death of Turkish electoral competitiveness. First, I describe the politico-legal context that enabled Erdogan’s rise. Second, I contrast the developments in Turkey regarding election competitiveness to European legal standards and strikingly late political demands.

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23 Mai 2023

A Flawed Vote, Not a Horse Race

The elections in Turkey/Türkiye showed the dilemma for the political opposition in competitive authoritarian regimes: They have to create momentum for change. They must believe it is possible to win elections. If they don't believe this, their voters won't. It is difficult to avoid this dilemma, but there is something journalists, experts and officials from other countries can do: Always stress the unfairness of the conditions in which the elections are being held. Do not get a carried away by the excitement of the race. Focus on the fact that the race is not being run on level ground.

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05 April 2023

Turkey’s Envisioned Exit from Authoritarianism

Turkey has been ruled by the AKP under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s leadership for more than 20 years. Throughout this time, Erdoğan got almost total control over state administration and judiciary, and enchained the media and big capital owners to himself. The Nation Alliance vows to change the political regime from executive presidentialism to parliamentary democracy in case it should defeat Erdoğan on May 14. In that regard, Turkey will turn over a new leaf in its Republican history, if, for the first time, a regime change would take place through a civilian transition.

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10 März 2023

The Constitution under the Rubble

On 6 February 2023, the century-old Republic of Turkey witnessed the most horrific environmental catastrophe in its history. Despite the evident responsibility of the central government and local administrations in the exacerbation of the social disaster, a particular state institution and an affluent Sufi cult apparently sought to capitalise on the destitution of young earthquake victims. Such was the context of the two criminal complaints filed by the lawyer-led NGO “Children and Women First Association” (Önce Çocuklar ve Kadınlar Derneği). Theocratic practices in a constitutionally secular country like Turkey do not merely erode the rule of law, but also violate the rights of children as defined under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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28 Februar 2023

Elections Held in Response to Demand

After the disastrous earthquakes of 6 February, the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 18 June were treated like the elephant in the room. Although being evidently unconstitutional, given the government’s influence, the Supreme Board of Election could enforce a postponement of the elections. However, relatively free elections are what remain of Turkish democracy and what are keeping it alive.

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17 Februar 2023

Shutting Down the Internet to Shut Down Criticism

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes which hit southwestern Turkey, internet connectivity had enabled civil society to provide additional on- and off-site assistance. However, the use of social media is not seen as innocent by Turkish authorities. Immediately after the earthquakes, authorities started to use legal instruments to silence the use of social media platforms even at the expense of utilizing its benefits during catastrophic times.

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24 Januar 2023

The Sultan’s Last Dance

Long-time ruler Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently declared that he would run for president for the last time in the upcoming elections in 2023, indicating the end of his political career that stretched over four decades. This may sound like a strategic move to mobilize voters but it is actually not possible for him to run again according to the current constitution. The possibility for a renewed or "last" run for office does not lie in the hands of Erdoğan alone.

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05 Januar 2023

Interfering with Free Speech and the Fate of Turkey

On 21 April 1998, the then mayor of İstanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was sentenced to one year (subsequently reduced to ten months) in prison and a hefty fine by the State Security Court of Diyarbakır for “incitement to hatred and hostility on grounds of religious discrimination”. His criminal act was that of reading two provocative verses from the poem “Divine Army” by Cevat Örnek (“the minarets are bayonets, the domes are helmets / mosques are our barracks, the faithful our soldiers”) during a rally of the Islamist Welfare Party (of “Strasbourg fame”) in 1997. Twenty-five years after the aforementioned rally, Turkey experienced a free speech case involving another conservative-leaning political figure on the rise: on 14 December 2022, İstanbul’s mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu was sentenced by İstanbul’s 7th Criminal Court of First Instance to a term of imprisonment of two years, seven months and fifteen days for criminal defamation.

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30 Dezember 2022
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#DefendingTheDefenders – Episode 4: Turkey

In the fourth episode of #DefendingTheDefenders we talk about the situation of lawyers in Turkey with Veysel Ok. He is an attorney in Istanbul and the Co-Director of the Media and Law Studies Association, a non-profit which monitors and defends freedom of expression cases against journalists.

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16 Dezember 2022

Back to the Future

After over nine months of preparatory meetings, the Turkish opposition coalition consisting of six political parties have announced their constitutional amendment proposal. While it has been plausibly argued in this blog that constitutional restoration in the case of Turkey can be conducted without necessarily amending the Constitution, the main cause unifying the opposition coalition at the moment is a comprehensive proposal for constitutional amendment that allegedly aims for transitioning towards a ‘strengthened’ parliamentary system. In this blogpost, I will evaluate several key provisions of the opposition’s proposal and explain its likely path towards adoption in the aftermath of the upcoming general elections.

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13 Dezember 2022

Good Job, Move On

In early December, six political parties from the Turkish opposition have announced a joint and comprehensive constitutional reform proposal. If enacted, the proposal would amend a total of 84 articles of the Turkish Constitution, almost half of the nation’s governing charter. While this proposal deserves praise as a unique example of consensus building in Turkish political and constitutional history, the opposition should now focus on winning the upcoming elections instead of getting bogged down in the details of the proposal.

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20 Oktober 2022

Silenced, Chilled, and Jailed

As Turkey is in the process of getting ready for the general and presidential elections of June 2023, a recent legal reform has created much concern regarding freedom of expression and increased threat of online censorship in the country. Citizens have called the amendment a ‘censorship law’, while some prominent civil society organizations have voiced their concern about the law creating avenues for a dystopian crackdown when the elections are just around the corner.

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Fake News, Wahrheitspflicht, Lüge

Die Befürworter von Mediengesetzen mit harten Sanktionen begründen deren Notwendigkeit damit, dass sich Desinformation zu einer „ernsthaften Bedrohung“ für den Zugang zu „wahren“ Informationen entwickelt und die Bekämpfung einer solchen „Bedrohung“ notwendig sei, um Grundrechte und Grundfreiheiten zu schützen. Die damit zusammenhängenden konstitutionellen Probleme werden dabei, unabhängig von der Schwere der Sanktionen, stark unterschätzt.

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05 Oktober 2022

Penning a New Narrative of Turkey as a Military Nation

Amid heated discussions over the upcoming elections, one of the largest set of prosecutions in the history of the Turkish Republic has been completed this year. In the aftermath of the military coup of July 15, 2016, which claimed the lives of 250 people in a single night and triggered a state of emergency rule that endured two years, over 100.000 investigations had been carried out and 289 trials were opened against the perpetrators. As of May 2022, all 289 cases are concluded in the courts of first instance. The courts proved to be a constitute element of this new constellation of powers in the post-2016 era, re-adjusting the narrative of Turkey as a military nation.

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28 September 2022

The Resistance-Deference Paradox

The Turkish Constitutional Court demonstrates the resistance-deference paradox as a pattern in its judicial behavior under autocratic pressure. The docket management strategies including prioritization and late responsiveness are also employed in politically sensitive cases. The deferring stances of the Court legitimize autocratization when core issues of the regime are at stake. In these cases, the Court develops an autocratic partnership that makes itself an unreliable actor without any commitment to judicial ethos. The resistant stances of the Court trigger the political backlash and clashes with the judiciary, leading to further contestation of political autocratization.

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21 Juli 2022

On Osman Kavala and Turkish Judicial Failures

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, in charge of monitoring compliance with ECtHR rulings, will now deliberate as to how to handle Turkey’s now judicially confirmed failure to release Kavala.  Suspension of Turkey’s membership in the Council of Europe, is an option that is on the table, at least theoretically. The Kavala case is larger than Kavala himself though.