Dec 31 2017

The question: Should the opposition collectively resign from the Turkish parliament?

The critics of the new Turkish Constitution claim that changes weakened the role of the parliament and created a political system without checks and balances.

The presidential candidate, in the untested Turkish Political Party System, will nominate the candidates for the parliamentary seats, which, according to critics, will result in the president having total control over both the executive and legislative.

According to the opposition parties, the yet to be adapted system completely blocks any channel for democratic opposition. Meanwhile, the Turkish president, under the State of Emergency rules, already started the process of legislating through executive orders.

So, we asked Turkish politicians, academicians, lawyers, journalists, and writers:

“Should CHP and HDP representatives collectively resign from the Turkish parliament to trigger snap elections for a legitimate legislature before the changes take effect?”


Hikmet Sami Türk (former minister of justice, constitutional lawyer):

This part is correct; the government is indeed legislating through executive orders. However, according to the current constitution, the authority to issue executive orders is exclusively limited to State of Emergency related matters, yet the latest executive laws are not in response to State of Emergency related issues.  In this respect, legislative authority is indeed usurped by the executive.

According to our current constitution, the regulations in the recently issued Decrees should be legislated by the Grand National Assembly. The Council of Ministers misused the authority given to them by the Constitution.

But this does not mean that the representatives should quit the parliament. On the contrary, the parliament should claim its authority back. They should bring the executive orders to the legislature for a debate. Under the current system, until these laws pass the assembly, there is a de facto confiscation of power. But this de facto fait accompli by itself does not change the fact that the executive orders are violating the constitution.

Hence, the parliament should immediately start debating the executive orders. The party members should not resign. Their job is to legislate. They should stay in the legislature and try to re-seize the power that the executive is trying to usurp.


Prof. Nora Şeni (academic, author):

Even though I agree with the idea of parliamentarians resigning to trigger a snap election, I doubt that it will have that effect. I think if they quit, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan might simply choose to go on without a parliament.

Even so, let me explain why I think the representatives should quit: for the last two years the intellectuals and journalists in Turkey refused to name the regime. And for their own reasons, Europeans, mainly the French, did the same thing. They all chose to use euphemisms rather than calling the system what it is, an autocracy.

This avoidance enabled the government to claim that, despite all the shortcomings, the system in Turkey is still a democracy. The matter of fact is that the State of Emergency rule rendered the Turkish National Assembly practically useless. Therefore, I think such an act will show the Turkish system for what it actually is.


Ümit Kardaş (lawyer):

For some time now, the authority of the legislature has been crippled, it lost its function to legislate. The president and the few around him are ruling through unconstitutional executive orders.

I think that CHP and HDP representatives quitting from the Assembly can convey this message to their constituents. Of course, it is important to emphasise that they are making this impossible decision for a pluralistic, participatory, democracy. Such a move will let the AKP-MHP block to own responsibility for the lawlessness they created. And will let the CHP-HDP block to stop being a pawn of a de facto authoritarian regime. It is clear that the resignations of CHP-HDP members will lead to a legitimacy crisis. I think HDP might choose to do this. But I doubt that CHP can.


Nesrin Nas (former head of ANAP, academic):

History sometimes forces nations to make tough choices. Decree 696 hit Turkey like an earthquake. It took away our most fundamental rights. It opened the gates of hell to a lawless society.

With this decree, some government supporters and their organisations can target civilians for being terrorists, traitors, enemies of the state (or Erdoğan, since the state and Erdoğan are considered the same).

This latest decree is another step towards lawlessness. This enables the "50 percent" of his supporters that President Erdoğan once said he was having a hard time to "stop from taking over the streets." This is an invitation to chaos.

Ironically the first step to defend the rule of law, the pluralistic democracy, human rights, and our freedoms, is for the opposition to quit the parliament and to form a collaboration among them for the reconstruction of the democratic institutions in Turkey.


Ertuğrul Günay (former minister of culture, legal expert):

The Constitutional Court's denial to oversee the constitutionality of the recent executive orders of this government pushed Turkey further away from the rule of law.

The opposition's passive approach to this lawlessness also enables and accelerates the government's recklessness. And now the most recent decree clearly demonstrates the dangerous situation that Turkey found itself in.

It seems that the legislative meetings under these conditions are counterproductive and futile; furthermore, these meetings legitimise the government’s illegal and unconstitutional policies.

The opposition parties need to find new and productive opposition methods to counter this unprecedented situation. The opposition collectively withdrawing from the parliament is a risky move that they need to decide on their own. But even if they do not, I say they need to stop joining parliamentary sessions and instead travel around the country, hold meetings with their voters to warn their constituents of the present and clear danger.


Cengiz Aktar (academic):

The parliament waived their rights to legislate and seceded them to the presidential palace starting from May 2016 when they voted to lift parliamentary immunity. From January 2016 on, the palace initiated the removal of these protections on the parliamentarians. The main opposition party CHP's decision to support the act was instrumental in this travesty.

The Decree Law No. 696, is a continuation of this process, it aims to abolish the political power that has existed since the 1920's. Erdoğan is rehearsing the presidential system. However, apart from a few politicians and columnists, the main opposition party CHP is staying quiet.

The only answer to this dysfunctional ineffective state is the opposition parties quitting their jobs and triggering a snap election.


Levent Gültekin (journalist-writer):

Quitting the parliament and going back to the polls can create a wave of excitement, but we must also ask ourselves whether this might further polarise the society and bolden Erdoğan's supporters? So, it is essential to plot a realistic strategy.

To pull this out, CHP and HDP would need to re-evaluate their own policies. Politics in Turkey is still stuck in the Cold-War era, with the political parties organize with cold war politics in mind. Never mind them talking about democracy, it is questionable whether democracy is their end goal at all.

The public polling shows that some AKP supporters who are aware of the dangers ahead of us, are looking for an alternative. The only reason they are not voting for the other options is that they don't believe the alternatives can succeed.

Right now, the political parties not promoting a more peaceful Turkey. Promoting democratic values is what the opposition needs to change with their programs and they need to move away from the Cold War paradigm.

In short, if CHP and HDP are really considering this radical step with all its possible implications, and reviewing their priorities to match the people's demands; kudos to them!