AK Party embodies unceasing spirit of reform
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unveiled his administration’s new judicial reform package on May 30. Turkey’s new judicial reform strategy document aims to promote rights and liberties and improve the quality of legal services. New legislation on safeguarding freedom of speech, imposing limits on access restrictions and discouraging pretrial detention will follow. Under the administration’s plan, law students will spend five – as opposed to four – years in school and new positions, including a deputy judge and deputy prosecutor, will be created within the judicial bureaucracy. A series of new measures to strengthen appeals courts, promote negotiated settlements and increase the number of notaries public will be taken in the coming days. This strategy document was the third such published under Justice and Development Party (AK Party) governments. Earlier versions had been unveiled in 2009 and 2015. In this sense, the initiative represents a new wave of reform by Turkey’s ruling party. Erdogan’s emphasis on the European Union in his address was loud and clear: “One of the main benefits of the EU membership process for Turkey has been the development of reform packages. During the preparation of this document, [the authors] took into consideration EU criteria as well as our nation’s demand for democracy, justice and human rights.” As such, this new package is an unmistakable response to the claim that the AK Party has lost its reformist edge. Turkey’s transition to the presidential system of government entailed a commitment to reconsider existing institutions. In this sense, the current plan is a combination of reform and the will to fight.