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Friday, 15 June 2007

Stop press: Annulments at the door

Further to my entry below, the rapporteur for the Constitutional Court has told reporters that he believes the bill should be scrapped because the vote on some of the articles did not achieve quorum. He said: "367 votes are needed for each article. The reform package should be cancelled completely." I'm still waiting for someone to show me the legal basis for that. So much for an apolitical judiciary.

The rapporteur's opinion is only advisory. It will be a group of high judges that make the decision, but few expect a contrary decision to emerge. There will be no referendum, and the president will not be elected by the Turkish people this time. A very great shame.


Nihat said...

Hi James, I am no law expert. Nor am I a journalist. So, double the doubt: "what do I know after all?"

But, here is my question. Presently (and hopefully forever), doesn't a constitutional amendment require 367 votes in the parliament? That is, before it can even be sent to the president for approval? I don't exactly know Sezer's official rationale for sending the amendment bill back to the parliament the first time around, but I was under the impression that, with ANAP's support, AKP had passed the bill with sufficient votes. Now, it is said, that wasn't the case, at least for some of the articles. So, to me, what the rapporteur told reporters sounds like a simple truth-cum-revelation. And, I wouldn't be surprised at the least if this is exactly what it is, given (imo) the populist or politically-motivated machinations behind the proposed changes.

Here is how an AKP candidate and consitutional law expert evaluates the situation:

AKP milletvekili adayı Anayasa Profesörü Zafer Üskül yaptığı değerlendirme de şunları belirtti:

“Sayın Cumhurbaşkanı’nın bu kararı ile cumhurbaşkanının halk tarafından seçilmesine ilişkin Anayasa değişikliğinin yürürlüğe girme olasılığının kalmadığını düşünüyorum. Çünkü, mevcut kanuna göre referanduma gitmek için 120 günlük süre var. Ama milletvekilliği seçimi daha yakın. Yeni Parlamento’nun ilk işi toplanıp Cumhurbaşkanı’nı seçmek olacak. Dolayısıyla, halk Cumhurbaşkanı’nı seçemeyecek. Ayrıca Sayın Cumhurbaşkanı, düzenlemeyi Anayasa Mahkemesi’ne götürdü. Sanırım Yüksek Mahkeme’de iptal yönünde karar verecektir. Ayrıca Sayın Cumhurbaşkanı referandum süresini 45 güne düşüren kanun değişikliğini de veto edecektir. Hal böyle olunca bu anayasa değişikliğinin yürürlüğe girmesi çok zor görünüyor."

I wish he also explained why he expects the High Court to scrap the bill. (Excert from Milliyet)

James said...

In response to "Doesn't a constitutional amendment require 367 votes in the parliament?", the answer is no. Have a look at Article 175 of the Turkish Constitution:

"The adoption of a proposal for (a constitutional) amendment shall require a three-fifths majority of the total number of members of the Assembly by secret ballot."

Under the present parliament, three-fifths is 325 MPs. If empty seats are counted, that figure is 330.

Not anywhere in the constitution does it say that 367 votes is quorum. For a constitutional ammendment, as Article 175 clearly states, the quorate figure is three-fifths.

If you look at parliament's voting record for the ammendment package, you will see that there were more than 367 votes for every single article. And all but one of the ammendments were accepted with more than 367 votes in favour. The only article not to cross the 367 mark was Article 1, which was accepted with 366 votes.

April's presidential election was overturned because only 361 MPs had voted. The Constitutional Court said that the figure was not enough, six short of the 367 required.

I disagree with that judgement, because there is nothing in the constitution to say that 367 votes are required in any parliamentary decision, let alone a presidential vote.

What concerns me is that the constitutional ammendment package will be scrapped just like the presidential vote. Everyone expects it to be scrapped, even though there is no blatant constitutional basis for it. It will become even more difficult to argue that the judiciary isn't politicised.

Nihat said...

James, thank you for the explanation. I appreciate it. I wasn't aware of the nuance between the thresholds of three-fifths and two-thirds in regards to constitutional amendments. Frankly, I heard of the three-fifths requirement from you for the first time. Anyway, enough with my relying on superficial op-eds and taking the rapporteur's words at face value. I have to agree with you in that the Court's credibility will be hurt if the amendment bill is scrapped based on an quorum and/or favorable vote requirements. They all appear to be satisfied, and a referendum appears to be inevitable. Of course, I still don't know about the President's rationale for his cancellation request, but given that the Court can evaluate an amendment proposal on procedural grounds only (Article 148), I can't help but wonder what could come off it.

Still, I am going to hold my horses, and not jump to a conclusion about the Court's independence and credibility before they reach a conclusion on the case. You, like so many others, seem to basing your cynicism on the Court's decision regarding the presidential vote. I am not sure if I agree with your disagreement with that decision.

For example, you say, "for a constitutional ammendment, as Article 175 clearly states, the quorate figure is three-fifths." How do you say that? There is no such stipulation in Article 175. But, there it says that three-fifths favorable votes are required to pass an amendment, and I presume, you therefore deduce that should also be the implied quorum requirement. And I agree with that. Then, by the same token, one has to assume an implied two-thirds quorum requirement to apply in the first two rounds of presidential vote. For Article 102 requires two-thirds favorable votes in the first two rounds. Frankly, my first reaction to that episode was, okay, if two-thirds quorum is not attained in the first two rounds, then these are failed rounds, and the third round can duly commence, where the president is elected by at least 226 votes (half of the total votes) and 226 is now the quorum. My rationale was, no big deal if 226 eventually becomes sufficient. But the Court didn't think so; they insisted on a two-thirds quorum and declared the first round void and null. I don't think this was necessarily a political decision. Article 96 left the pertinent question open to interpretation, and the Court interpreted.

Again, I don't know the full extent of the Court's interpretation and subsequent decision. Did they, for example, stipulate a two-thirds quorum requirement for the third and fourth rounds also? (Please enlighten if you know about it; again, I am confused by partisan op-eds.) If they did, it might deserve some criticism as going a tad bit too far. Otherwise, I don't see anything fundamentally wrong about their decision. Looking at the place and role of the president in the overall system, particularly his powers and neutrality vis-a-vis the totality of political parties, it is clear that the spirit and purpose of Article 102 is to force presidential election by consensus among as wide a base as possible. And, saying there is no quorum requirement, or there is, but it is only one-thirds per Article 96, etc., these all undercut this purpose significantly.

Finally, I sort of know, you were not a partisan on the presidential question, and you not only slammed CHP and Baykal but also criticized AKP. Recently, you even granted that the President had a point when he expressed his reservations about president's being elected by general public vote. Still, I want to look at the question from a little different perspective.

Many people approach the Constitution as something that aims to avoid all crises at all times and conditions. There is not much to argue with, in this view. But different national constituents have different definitions of a crisis. One gripe of mine regarding the presidential question of the day is with the alleged inadequacy of the current Article 102 to avoid a crisis. If your interpretation is held high, then a party with a parliamentary majority like that of AKP's today can blatantly ignore the spirit and purpose of the law, and attempt to elect a president without truly seeking consensus. That's a crisis for the parliamentary minority.

Conversely, if the Court's (and my) interpretation is held high, then a minority party, like CHP today, with sufficient parliamentary votes can deny quorum in the election rounds and block the process. The parliament cannot elect the president because the first two rounds cannot be passed. That's a crisis for the majority party.

Frankly, as an ordinary citizen, I take the former type of crisis much more seriously than the latter. If the majority party gets its way, then the minority (to which I may belong now or then) has no remedy. About the latter type of crisis, I ask, whose crisis is it? Well, it is a crisis for the party that ignores the consensus stipulation. Big deal! Article 102 tells what the ultimate resolution is: the parliament is dissolved and general elections are held immediately upon a failed fourth round. Is that the end of the world? How is it different from where we are today? If the minority group's blockage is entirely capricious and devoid of any merit, then they will theoretically be given their lesson in the general elections. So, the majority group has its remedy to such a worst case minority behavior.

In conclusion, in my opinion, the Court has hit the nail on the head with its clarification to Article 102. Someone has to watch out for the spirit of democracy (don't render a minority remediless) while others are shouting populist cries and playing the false victim. You had it coming, man! It may look like the Court bowed to military pressure or something, but it isn't necessarily so. I think a lot more credit is due to them on this matter than presently given.

James said...

Nihat, I would like to thank you for such an informed response. You argue your point of view very well. What is more, you have done what not even the Constitutional Court could do: defend their decision.

First off, a quick point about Article 148. It does indeed say that the Court can evaluate an amendment proposal on procedural grounds only, but it also says this: "the verification of constitutional amendments shall be restricted to consideration of whether the requisite majorities were obtained for the proposal and in the ballot". It is under this clause that the CHP and presumably President Sezer are making their complaints. There's no doubt that the court can rule on the ammendment; I just don't see where they can reject it.

I made a mistake in my last comment. I should not have said "For a constitutional ammendment, as Article 175 clearly states, the quorate figure is three-fifths" because, like you say, the article does not say that at all. What I should have said is "For a constitutional ammendment, as Article 175 clearly states, the acceptance figure is three-fifths". I'm sorry about that. Like you, I am no legal expert.

One thing that I want to make clear is that I do not deduce a favourable vote requirement to be an implied quorum requirement as well. A quorum is the smallest number of people required to be present before a meeting can begin. That figure cannot be the same as a favourable vote requirement - that would mean that the constitution requires a unanimous result.

In the Turkish constitution, there is only one article that makes a reference to quorum, and that is Article 96, which says "the Turkish Grand National Assembly shall convene with at least one-third of the total number of members". Decisions will be taken by an absolute majority, it says, but that absolute majority can never be less than a quarter of the total number of seats plus one. This means that the minimum attendance is 184. Of that 184, there must be at least 139 votes in favour before a decision can be taken. According to Article 96, the quorum is 184.

The reason I disagree with the Court's decision on the presidential election is because Article 102, the article that defines the process of electing a president, makes no reference to a quorum. All it says is that a two-thirds majority is needed in rounds one and two to elect a president. If that majority is not found, then the third round will require only an absolute majority.

Abdullah Gül got 357 votes in the first round. The total number of votes was 361. The Constitutional Court said this first round was invalid because there was not a two-thirds majority in attendance. Like you say, the court deduced the number of required favourable votes as an implied quorum requirement. I think this is wrong.

This is a place where the constitution is simply not clear, and this is why the Constitutional Court exists - it clears things up for us when the politicians disagree. And even though I disagree with the Court's judgement, I respect it, and accept that we must presume a presidential election requires a two-thirds attendance for it to be valid.

Where I disagree with you is over all this talk of an implied quorum. A constitution that operates on implication is a useless document, because the whole point of a constitution is that it is clear and leaves nothing to guesswork. There is a part of the constitution that is vague, but I think it is not Article 102, as you say, but rather Article 96. The constitutional ammendment would, if accepted, change that from the above to read: "the Turkish Grand National Assembly shall, in all of its duties including elections, convene with at least one-third of total number of members".

You make a second argument in the latter part of your comment about majority and minority rule. If I understood you correctly, you say the law is in place to stop parties with huge majorities, like the AK party, from ruling with a blatant disregard of the other parties in parliament. That is true. I also should repeat that I think the AK party's behaviour in the run-up to the presidential election was despicable. For an office as important as that of the president, they should have sought a consensus far sooner than they did. But if the CHP, or the MHP, or the newly-formed Democrat Party had the AK majority, they probably would have done the same.

The Court is due to consider the CHP's application regarding the constitutional ammendment tomorrow. The CHP's claim is that the first article in the ammendment package, the one that reduces a term of parliament from five years to four, received 366 and not 367 votes in favour. They argue that the whole package should be scrapped as a result.

But who was it last summer who was trying to force an early general election by saying "the natural life of a Turkish parliament is four years, not five"? It was Deniz Baykal. Oh, the irony.

(note that I am using parliament's website copy of the constitution when I quote from it. There is an English translation here, but I think their translation of Article 96 is wrong)

Nihat said...

James, hi again. Yes, the Court will rule on CHP's case tomorrow. So, I guess, we'll either see the rabbit pulled off their hat, or have our referendum.

About Article 148, it says a little bit more than what you quoted from it: "the verification of constitutional amendments shall be restricted to consideration of whether the requisite majorities were obtained for the proposal and in the ballot, and whether the prohibition on debates under urgent procedure was complied with." One or the other of the objections, CHP's or the President's, may have the catch in that prohibition clause. Also Article 175 stipulates that the amendment proposals be discussed twice. From the voting record of the amendment bill that you linked to, it is clear that the strictest quorum was attained, and the bill garnered more than three-fifths favorable votes. Did the parliament discuss the bill in two separate sessions? Was the quorum attained as comfortably in both sessions? Most importantly, what are those prohibited urgent procedures? There may be another catch there.

About the notion of implied quorum and the Constitution being deficient if it leaves room for implication. I both agree and disagree. First, I don't necessarily think that our Constitution is perfect. Secondly, I believe constitutions should be compact, simple, and non-convoluted documents. The US has done pretty well with such a document, and their Supreme Court interprets, finds implications between the lines, keeps the intent and purpose of the founders in mind, sets and unsets precedents, etc. 24/7. But I agree with you in that technical vagueness, as in the quorum question at hand, is a deficiency that could have been avoided by the authors. Such technical weaknesses are particularly worrisome when they pertain to such important matters as amending the document itself or electing the Commander in Chief of the country. Otherwise, interpretation of the spirit and purpose of the law should go on, as the world turns if you like (aren't we like in a soap opera?).

Article 96 requires one-third quorum "unless otherwise stipulated in the Constitution." And, Articles 102 and 175 do not stipulate any quorum requirements for presidential elections and constitutional amendments, respectively. That is the situation, an apparent weak point, that the law presents to us, and we are only discussing how the weakness can be removed. You're right, Article 96 may be extended to apply to all cases without exception, and this removes the technical problem. However, I still maintain, the system can choose to set the bar higher in select matters. Consequently, I would rather have Articles 102 and 175 be modified to clearly spell out quorum requirements than the bar be lowered across the board. I don't see what the theoretical problem in that is. Technically, it constitutes a hurdle to a majority group like today's AKP. But that's the point. I'll take it one step further, and say that it would have been an invaluable democratic experience for Turkey if the parliament had been dissolved once (and general elections are held subsequently) out of the parliament's own failure to avoid crises, in accord with the existing laws, without pulling the Courts or the Armed Forces into their mess. But no political party in Turkey today is cut out of that kind of cloth. (CHP is behaviorally no better than AKP, as you say.)

Of course, whether the president should be elected by popular vote, as proposed in AKP's amendment package, is a different question from all above discussion. I don't have a fundamental objection to the idea, but if I could, I'd vote against it in the probably upcoming referendum. It's a system question, and I prefer that the question be debated with a broader view of the overall distribution and separation of powers between the president and the executive. Don't forget, Article 104, which bestows upon the President super-duper executive powers and hence makes him almost the head of the executive, is a remnant of the 1980 junta regime; and you can bet, even Kenan Evren (still kicking) would grant that those were intended as extraordinary measures for a special time, to be used judiciously. But I do not want the system to allow for such powers to come to a partisan alignment with the ruling party, or with a spoiler minority party for that matter (as the situation today if you like). Both are potential crises in my opinion: there are no guarantees for judicious use (pray for good graces of the president). Such a wide-angle system reconsideration should also cover various other laws, particularly the election law and others pertaining to executive powers of the government. For example, I wouldn't have complained if working safeguards were constituted to establish and protect merit-based public service appointments in the lower and middle-tier bureaucratic echelons. Lack of this has been a chronic problem of Turkish politics in my opinion.

P.S. I am using the same Turkish source you linked to. I wasn't aware of the English version. But I checked it out, and didn't see a problem with the translation of Article 96. Where do you think it is wrong?

P.P.S. The members of the High Court would normally refrain from vocal defense of their decisions. I wonder what their written decision said about the presidential election question. Do you know a link to that, if they publish their stuff online?

Nihat said...

I forgot. James, you don't have to apologize for misreading something. And when I said "CHP is behaviorally no better than AKP, as you say," I didn't mean to put words in your mouth. I have good sense of where you stand on the present political parties. So, don't feel you have to clarify something there.

Nihat said...

Oh Blogger, you're acting up.

Bad Tyrpist said...

Article 175 goes on to say:

"Cumhurbaşkanı Anayasa değişikliklerine ilişkin kanunları, bir daha görüşülmek üzere Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisine geri gönderebilir. Meclis, geri gönderilen Kanunu, üye tamsayısının üçte iki çoğunluğu ile aynen kabul ederse Cumhurbaşkanı bu Kanunu halkoyuna sunabilir."

That's 367, if I am not mistaken, on a second vote. Was a second vote taken? I haven't really been following as I am a teacher and we have been so busy with the end of the school year...

But then, Article 175 continues:

"Meclisce üye tamsayısının beşte üçü ile veya üçte ikisinden az oyla kabul edilen Anayasa değişikliği hakkındaki Kanun, Cumhurbaşkanı tarafından Meclise iade edilmediği takdirde halkoyuna sunulmak üzere Resmî Gazetede yayımlanır."

Which may turn the whole thing into soup. I don't know. I am no lawyer either. But it seems to say that if the vote passes with less than 367, then the law goes to referendum.

However, one thing I do see is that Sezer and the supreme court are seen as blocking democratic reform. As I ply my way back and forth between Sarıyer and Beşiktaş on the delightful but somewhat dingy Sarıyer minibus, I see lots of posters showing Menderes, Özal and...you guessed it...Erdoğan one after the other, in a manner reminiscent of those old banners showing the unholy trinity of Bolshevism...Marx, Engels and Lenin. And, of course, clearly suggesting that R. Tayyıp is the natural successor to a democratic tradition. OK, how democratic is moot, but the suggestion is clear.

Whatever the result of the supreme court's deliberations, the idea of a President elected directly is now firmly in Turkish political consciousness.

Nihat said...


Yes, there were two sessions on the amendment package. I think, the President used all the time allowed to him to review it the first time around before returning it to the parliament. The parliament sent it back shortly afterwards. I don't know about the separate voting records in the two sessions, or if there are discrepancies between the two votes. But I'd be extremely surprised if they didn't have a proper vote in either session. That'd be giving their 'enemy' free ammunition; considering they wouldn't expect anything but blockage from the President.

Here is how I decode Article 175.

In the first round:

-- For an amendment proposal to go anywhere, it needs 330 votes. This is sufficient for it to be taken to the public to become law, unless the president sends it back to the parliament.

-- If the proposal gets 367 votes, then it becomes law without a referendum, again unless the president sends it back to the parliament.

-- The president can send it back to the parliament even if it gets 500 votes.

In the second round (if the president asks for it):

-- If the proposal passes "as is" with from 330 to 366 votes, then a referendum is a must.

-- If it passes "as is" with 367 or more votes, then calling a referendum is the president's prerogative.

Also, I haven't checked out Tuesday's Turkish papers yet, but there are some reports in the Western media which suggest that the President made another move on Monday, rendering technically impossible the double-vote-on-July-22 scenario (general elections and the constitutional amendment referendum). So, things may not hinge as acutely on the High Court's ruling on CHP's case for scrapping the bill.

Nihat said...

Per my own question to James about the High Court's decisions published online...

I found this about the presidential election, at the Court's website. It is extremely terse, and seemingly, self referential. Practically useless for a layman that I am. It doesn't contain any deliberation on the "esas" of the matter, but makes a reference to a report on that, which they may not be publishing online. (I know "usul" is "procedure/procedural," but what is the proper English term for "esas"?) I think, things could have been a lot more transparent and easier to find.

Nihat said...

James, I'm sorry for spamming your blog, but this issue got under my skin. Like you, I am having a hard time accepting the vagueness of it all. Here is a fresh article by a law professor that appeared on Today's Zaman. I felt both dizzy and relieved for this professor doesn't sound any more clear-headed than us, peasants. He even appears to think that less than three-fifths favorable votes leads to a referendum. To me, this is patently wrong. In any event, he makes references to 1960 and 71 Constitutions and some precedents (some having to do with parliamentary procedures). Well, I guess, he does. As I said, I am dizzy and giving up.

Also, from another Today's Zaman news piece, I learned that Arinc complained about the Hight Court's not making public the reasoning behind its 367 decision for the first two presidential vote rounds. So, I guess, I wasn't going to find anything sunstantive in my search (in the previous comment).

Bad Tyrpist said...

"I think, things could have been a lot more transparent and easier to find. "

I have a feeling that transparency is not a priority. The decision does state that the TBMM's ruling on quora de facto changes the consitution, but the rest to me is foggy in the extreme. It seems to say that they have cancelled the quorum decision, and the first round of the presidential election which is indivisibly a part of that decision, until it is promulgated in the Official Gazette because of the difficulties that would otherwise arise...in other words, cancelled pending clarification on what a quorum is. That's my best interpretation. That would suggest that the Sumpreme Court also don't understand what the consitution intends.....join the club.

I think "esas" is best understood in English in this context as sometimes meaning "pertinent" and sometimes "providing grounds for ".

On another point, Article 175:
"-- If the proposal passes "as is" with from 330 to 366 votes, then a referendum is a must."

I don't think any other interpretation is possible.

Fun this, isn't it? Better than Sudoku....

Nihat said...

BT, yes, it is fun. Sado-masochistic kind maybe?

There are still questions in my mind about the decoding of that Court decision. But I digress, and accept it as still foggy. I grant, though, you took a good crack at it.

Do you yourself have a blog or something? From what I've read you saying here and there at James's place, you appear to be a treasure kind of guy for someone like me, who has somewhat lost keenness of touch with Turkish socio-political affairs. Until recently, I tended to think being able to look back from a distance was good. But, now, everything, internal or external, seems very urgent, imminent, and critical. The apparent shortage of that "frankness and vigor" across a wider spectrum of political players is, I admit, a source of anxiety for me.

Well, anyway, if your are, or will be, publishing yourself somewhere, I'd like to know.

istanbultory said...

I would favour the direct election of the president but only if it were a two-stage process like the French presidential election process. Every conceivable candidate would be allowed to stand in the first round of voting with the two highest-scoring candidates then facing a run-off. The last 5 years of the AKP government have demonstrated the inherent dangers of a single-party government which was elected by little more than a third of the electorate. Close to 70% of the electorate have been effectively unrepresented. Democracy without the representation of a plurality of views and political positions is not democracy.

Bad Tyrpist said...

I don't blog anywhere, Nihat. I just don't have the time. Though I may start sometime.


"Democracy without the representation of a plurality of views and political positions is not democracy. "

sez you. But the current meclis does have a plurality of views represented. You may recall 124 CHP members challenging the Presidential election! There is a plurality, it's just that there is an overwhelming AKP majority. I don't think this majority in itself demonstrates any supposed dangers of "undemocracy". Strong governments need majorities to function.

However, representation could be more democratic. I agree that the current baraj keeps out too many people, and almost everyone I talk to here thinks it should be lowered. Also, the courts should not be used to exclude parties from elections on spurious grounds.

The real dangers to democracy lie elsewhere. I believe that the purpose of democracy is not to generate a government...there is no reason to assume that a democratically elected government, representing proportionally all groups in a country, will automatically produce good policies. The purpose of democracy is to justify a government, making it accountable to the people it rules.

Take USA, for example. The many millions of Americans who despise George Bush, and consider him to be the US equivalent of Typhoid Mary, still consider him legitimate. He may be a lousy President, but he is still the President of the USA, and everyone respects that. He has legitimacy.

Ib his first term, though, his legitimacy was tarnished, because it looked as if he had stolen the election through electoral trickery in Florida. It is this which is most dangerous.

If a substantial number of Turkish people start to believe that the government of the country is being subverted by undemocratic forces - such as the army, or the Supreme Court using its power illegitimately, and that Turkey is really being run by some ruthless "derin devlet" which will stop at nothing to retain its privileges, then the state will lose legitimacy, and become less effective, less able to do its job.

And that would be a real disaster.

In short, I believe Turkey needs sound political instutions:

1. A transparent democracy in electing it's legislature and president.

2. A system of legal checks and balances which the people have faith in, and which do not try to pull "fast ones", as the Supreme Court seemed to do over the Presidential election.

I look at what is happening now as the process of developing these. It will be a long, long process, because it will need the Turkish people to change their minds about the nature of the state, and the purpose of politics in it. In the orthodox republican world view, the state is a given. It is a sacred thing, the institutional embodiment of the People. The Republic comes first, even before the constitution - it is a mystical entity, something almost to worship. Politics, and parties are seen in this view as bodies which mediate between the state and the people. Parties are official, and have to be approved by the state.

A political democracy works on completely different principles. Politics in the process by which the state justifies itself, and continues its business. Parties originate outside the state within peoples and communities, and are the means they use to repesent themselves in public afairs.

You can see this process of questioning going on all the time in Turkey..it is against this process of questioning that people such as Kerinçsiz launch their otherwise absurd and illogical attacks against the Pamuks and Dinks of the world....kerinçsiz is not defending "Turkishness" per se. He is defending the belief that the country be run according to an unquestionable mystical principle of Turkishness.

In the west, we call this facism.

My children are half Turkish. I want them to remain proud of being Turkish, and so I want to see this process of change succeed.

istanbultory said...

Yes to a transparent democracy. I certainly oppose the notion that you need to gain 10% of the national vote in order to get parliamentary representation. That has no paralell anywhere in the world. This parliamentary threshold should have been abolished years ago.

And no to the election of a president if it means, as is likely in Turkey that the 30% pro-Islamic/Conservative bloc vote would manage to secure the office while 70% of the electorate would (as usual)remain excluded. A two-round voting system is essential for the election of a president in Turkey.
Strong governments need strong majorities to function. True. I just don't believe that the AKP is what it claims to be- i.e, a pro-EU,reformist, post-Islamist movement and it is indeed, pursuing what many regard as "a hidden agenda".
There are no "official" political parties in Turkey. Nor should there be. All parties should, however, be prepared to accept and abide by the prevailing constitutional order. Parties seeking to divide the country along ethnic lines or create an Islamic state should not be allowed to exist. Post-war democracies (West Germany amongst others) have frequently closed down parties that aim to subvert the democratic process or destroy the constitutional order. That is how things should be....
But on current form, if I were a Turkish voter, I would vote for none of them. A plague on all their houses.

Bad Tyrpist said...

"There are no "official" political parties in Turkey. "

This is true in that there are no parties representing an official state position, and you do not need state permission to form or join a political party.

The fact that Germany also closes declares parties unconstitutional (does it actually close them down? Or merely stop recognising them?) is perhaps a reflection on Germany's somewhat colourful democratic past....

But the attitude I am talking about is shown in the fact that the constitution feels the need to precisely define the purpose, nature and role of parties, and to establish so clearly that all political parties are accountable to the consitutional court, and may be closed by it. In that sense, all parties are "official".

Not even France does that.

When it comes to dividing the country on ethnic lines, no distinction is made between such "separatism" on the one hand and what should, in a true democracy, be a legitimate representation of a minority.

The point remains that the range of expression allowed in Turkish politics has been extremely narrow, and has also been strongly challenged by AKP. The party's doing democracy a favour.

Nihat said...

Istanbultory, the method of electing the president according to the proposed changes is exactly like you say it should be.

istanbultory said...

Indeed, Nihat'cim. For once (and I mean once) I find myself in perfect agreement with Erdogan. Obviously, the election of presidents by parliamentary vote is now profoundly archaic. In more general terms, I take the Michael Rubin view on current developments in Turkey:

Bad Tyrpist said...

I find the highly partisan and non-scholarly nature of organisations like MEF depressing. The Rubin issues are serious, and need careful investigation rather than unsubstantiated assertion. "Accusations of Saudi capital subsidizing AKP are rampant." for example. If this is the case, then it means the immediate closure of AKP, according to the constitution.

The army and secular elite here do not trust the "islamists", and the "islamists" do not trust the army. Unless there is some trust coming from somewhere, I don't see how genuine political institutions can develop.

I dismiss Rubin, not because of the nature of his accusations, but because there is no attempt to demonstrate clearly that the situation is as he says it is. It is an attempt to sway western opinion behind the army and against the AKP, not any kind of serious and dispassionate evaluation of the situation.

Nihat said...

BT, I think, you don't mean to suggest immediate closure of AKP upon rampant "accusations" of it being subsidized by Saudi capital. Were there accusations? Were any of these investigated? Were non-investigations, if any, because of the lack of merit in accusations, or defensive political machinations? Or, were these accusations themselves offensive political machinations? I'll appreciate any clarification.

I think your emphasis on transparency (as well as on a sound system of checks and balances trusted by the people) is very well placed.

Bad Tyrpist said...

I meant, "If it is the case that the accusations are true" of course. I wrote too elliptically.

Nihat said...

Are we depressed yet? Check this out: Ankarapology: what is to fuss about? I hope he is wrong? If not, some years down the road, we will be blaming Erdogan for his Kasimpasali habits and lack of foresight.

Nihat said...

According to AA, the Constitutional Court's decision /w rationale, re: 367 requirement for the first two rounds of presidential election, is published today in the Official Gazette. Below I'm including the whole AA piece on this (in Turkish); check out the boldface paragraph.

Anayasa Mahkemesi'nin gerekçesi...


ANKARA - Anayasa Mahkemesi'nin Cumhurbaşkanlığı seçiminin birinci ve ikinci turunda toplantı yeter sayısının 367 olduğu yönündeki kararının gerekçesi, Resmi Gazete'nin bugünkü sayısında yayımlandı.
CHP, Cumhurbaşkanlığı seçiminin birinci turundan sonra, 11. Cumhurbaşkanı seçimine ilişkin ilk tur oylamanın eylemli içtüzük değişikliği niteliğinde olduğunu ileri sürerek, TBMM'nin 27 Nisan 2007 günlü, 96. birleşiminde alınan 11. Cumhurbaşkanı'nın seçiminde gözetilmesi gereken toplantı yeter sayısı ile ilgili kararının iptali ve yürürlüğünün durdurulması istemiyle dava açmıştı.
Anayasa Mahkemesi, 1 Mayıs 2007'de söz konusu kararı iptal etmiş ve kararın gerekçesi Resmi Gazete'de yayımlanıncaya kadar yürürlüğünü durdurmuştu.
Yüksek Mahkeme'nin gerekçeli kararında, şöyle denildi:
''Cumhurbaşkanı seçimi sürecinde ilk iki oylamada uzlaşmanın sağlanması, 102. maddenin birinci fıkrasındaki 'Cumhurbaşkanı, TBMM üye tamsayısının üçte iki çoğunluğu ile seçilir' kuralının toplantı yeter sayısını da kapsamasıyla olanaklıdır. Aksi halde, üçüncü fıkradaki birinci ve ikinci oylamalar anlamsız hale gelecek, üçüncü ve dördüncü oylamalarda üye tamsayısının salt çoğunluğu ile Cumhurbaşkanı seçilebileceği için, bir uzlaşmaya da gerek kalmayacaktır. Üçüncü fıkrada öngörülen üçüncü ve dördüncü oylamalarda, TBMM'nin, adaylardan birini üye tamsayısının salt çoğunluğunun oyuyla seçebilme olanağı karşısında, Meclis'te salt çoğunluğa sahip parti ya da partiler, birinci ve ikinci oylamada üçte iki çoğunlukla aranan uzlaşmaya sıcak bakmayabileceklerdir. Bu durum Anayasa'nın, Cumhurbaşkanı seçiminin uzlaşmaya dayanması amacıyla bağdaşmamaktadır.''
Kararda, ''Anayasa'nın 102. maddesinin ilk fıkrasında Cumhurbaşkanı'nın seçimi için öngörülen üçte iki çoğunluk, dava konusu Meclis kararına ilişkin birinci oylama yönünden hem toplantı hem de karar yetersayısını kapsamaktadır'' denildi.

Gerekçede, TBMM Başkanı seçiminde Anayasa'nın 102. maddesinin birinci fıkrasına benzer biçimde toplantı yeter sayısı öngören kurala yer verilmediği belirtildi.

TBMM Başkanı Bülent Arınç, "Ben bu gerekçeyi, kendi şahsi hukuki görüşüm çerçevesinde, bu konuda yaptığım araştırmalar, Mecliste yaptığım konuşmalar, uygulamaya yönelik ortaya koyduğum çerçeve içerisinde ikna edici ve hukuki zemini olan bir düşünce olarak görmüyorum" dedi. CNN Türk'te yayınlanan "Editör" programına katılan Arınç, seçimden sonra Abdullah Gül'ün adaylığının devam edip etmeyeceğine ilişkin bir soru üzerine de "Bugünden yarına hiç kimsenin adaylığı söz konusu değil. Ne benim, ne Abdullah Gül'ün ne sizin ne de bir başkasının. O ayrı bir süreç" diye konuştu. Arınç, "Önümüzdeki siyasi süreci mutlaka görmemiz lazım. 'Ne adayım ne aday değilim' diyorum" ifadesini kullandı.

TBMM Anayasa Komisyonu Başkanı, AK Parti İstanbul Milletvekili Burhan Kuzu da Anayasa Mahkemesinin, ''Cumhurbaşkanı seçiminin birinci ve ikinci turunda toplantı yeter sayısının 367 olması gerektiği'' yönündeki kararının gerekçesini değerlendirirken, ''Anayasanın omurgası kırılmıştır. Hukuk patlatılmıştır, demokrasi çatlatılmıştır. Bu karar çok ağır bir karardır'' dedi.