Turkey’s democ­racy deficit and the stalled EU process

Turkish Review - - THINK TANKS - İSA AFA­CAN,

Turkey’s demo­cratic his­tory has al­ways been a tu­mul­tuous one. Oc­ca­sional re­forms were of­ten in­ter­rupted by mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tions, deep par­ti­san wran­gling, or eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity. There has been no ex­tended pe­riod in Turkey’s his­tory that can be truly called demo­cratic. For decades, it has been more apt to call democ­racy in Turkey a ‘work in progress.’ A democ­racy deficit has be­come a com­mon re­frain in Turkey’s repub­li­can his­tory The year 2014 will prob­a­bly be re­mem­bered as one of the most trou­bled of the era, as main pil­lars of democ­racy like rule of law, sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers, ac­count­abil­ity and free­dom of ex­pres­sion were se­ri­ously un­der­mined. For this is­sue, we will re­view the re­ports on the con­nec­tion be­tween stalled EU process and Turk­ish gov­ern­ment’s back­track­ing on the democ­racy agenda.

First is the of­fi­cial re­port of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s 2014 Turkey Progress Re­port. It scru­ti­nizes the gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion among cabi­net mem­bers, and ar­gues that it has “se­ri­ous con­cerns re­gard­ing the in­de­pen­dence of the ju­di­ciary and sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers.” The ex­ten­sive reshuf­fling or dis­missal of pros­e­cu­tors, judges and po­lice of­fi­cers ham­pered the ef­fec­tive and in­de­pen­dent func­tion­ing of the jus­tice sys­tem. Changes to the Law on the High Coun­cil of Judges and Pros­e­cu­tors and the re­sul­tant re­as­sign­ment of judges and pros­e­cu­tors hin­dered the prospect of pros­e­cut­ing any­one in con­nec­tion with the cor­rup­tion scan­dal. In sev­eral in­stances, the com­mis­sion re­port high­lights the ex­ec­u­tive branch’s in­ter­fer­ence with the Ju­di­ciary, and con­tends that the gov­ern­ment’s ac­tion should cast doubt on the in­tegrity and in­de­pen­dence of the ju­di­ciary. In ad­di­tion, a large-scale re­as­sign­ment and dis­missal of po­lice of­fi­cers raises sig­nif­i­cant con­cerns over the op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the po­lice to tackle or­ga­nized crime, ter­ror­ism and other vi­tal threats.

In the con­text of si­lenc­ing me­dia and the op­po­si­tion, the ban on plat­forms like Twit­ter and YouTube -though later over­turned by the Con­sti­tu­tional Court -was seen by the com­mis­sion as a ma­jor im­ped­i­ment to free­dom of ex­pres­sion. The com­mis­sion con­tends that “[s]tate of­fi­cials con­tin­ued mak­ing state­ments hav­ing an in­tim­i­dat­ing ef­fect on the me­dia. This, to­gether with the own­er­ship struc­ture of the Turk­ish me­dia sec­tor, led to wide­spread self-cen­sor­ship in the press, as well as res­ig­na­tions and dis­missals of jour­nal­ists.” Ad­di­tion­ally, the re­port main­tains that par­lia­ment does not fully per­form its main re­spon­si­bil­i­ties like law mak­ing and the over­sight of the ex­ec­u­tive branch. The par­lia­ment passed many im­por­tant bills as quickly as pos­si­ble, with­out ad­e­quate con­sul­ta­tion and de­lib­er­a­tion. The re­port adds that “[a]n in­clu­sive and con­sul­ta­tive ap­proach to law-mak­ing re­mains the ex­cep­tion rather than the rule.” Af­ter dis­cussing the on­go­ing po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic con­text, the com­mis­sion re­port fur­ther

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