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May 25 2019

Turkish state heads for destruction along with its institutions and established rules

May 22, 2019 will be remembered as another black day in the judicial and political history of Turkey. It is the latest of many.

This was the day that the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) published its detailed ruling for the May 6 decision to annul and rerun the March 31 Istanbul mayoral election.

That the annulment, coming during a period of deepening systemic crisis in Turkey, was a “civil coup” is beyond dispute, as opposition parties have expressed in various ways.

Not only the Turkish opposition, but also respected and objective legal experts in Turkey have described the YSK’s 250-page justification a scandalous text. The dissenting opinion of YSK chief Sadi Güven, one of four YSK judges to oppose the annulment, clearly demonstrates the invalidity of the decision the council reached.

“Objections raised to balloting committees after those committees have been established cannot be presented on their own as a reason to annul elections which have been held”, Güven’s statement reads.

He added that it was impossible to agree with the decision to annul the election on the grounds that polling officials had been appointed against regulations stating they had to be public officials, since each ballot committee also consisted of representatives from political parties. He also said that the faulty paperwork cited in the detailed reasoning did not justify cancelling the election since it had not indicated any discrepancy in the vote count.

A careful reading of the entire detailed ruling reveals a simple fact:

Any irregularities discovered were on a small scale, and did not warrant the annulment of the election.

Hours before the YSK’s decision came another crucial ruling, this time from Turkey’s Constitutional Court.

The Turkish businessman and civil society leader Osman Kavala, jailed for roughly 600 days after being detained in October 2017 and later charged with “attempting to overthrow the Turkish government”, had appealed to the court for release on the grounds that his prolonged imprisonment pending trial breached his fundamental rights to freedom and security.

After almost two years without considering his appeal, the court decided to bring Kavala’s case file to its Plenary Assembly on April 3, 2019. The opinion set down in the court’s rapporteur’s report was that the businessman’s rights had been infringed upon.

Yet on May 22, his appeal was rejected by a majority vote from the Constitutional Court.

The court has not released the detailed reasoning for its decision, and we may not see it for a long time.

But the following is already clear:

The Kavala decision is a legal scandal of the utmost gravity, as were the decisions to continue the detention of Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and journalists Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak. 

Respected legal experts have said the decision will mark the date when Turkey’s Constitutional Court abrogated its duty to monitor and guarantee the rights of Turkish citizens. 

The ruling not only contradicts previous decisions of the court to uphold rights and freedoms, it has also, by its disregard for the European Convention for Human Rights, which Turkey is a signatory of, contravened the 90th article in the Turkish constitution. That article stipulates that international treaties including the convention take precedence over Turkey’s domestic legislation.

In short, the ruling shows that the court has acted contrary to its obligations, taking the side of the state against the individual and proving itself subject to political power.

These two scandalous decisions announced in the Republic of Turkey on May 22 are an expression of the pitch blackness the country has been dragged into. The country’s highest court, just likes the lower courts, has lost its independence, and state institutions like the YSK have lost the autonomy required to function correctly.

The situation becomes graver with each passing day. The damage of what has taken place will not be limited to these arbitrary decisions alone. The direction Turkey is taking is one that sees the state progressively rotting from within and makes it increasingly difficult to remedy the destruction wrought on trust and peace in society. Every institution and law in the country is being crushed beneath this avalanche.

© Ahval English