Erdoğan plans to wrest power from lawyers’ unions

(Updates with joint statement from professional chambers)

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been working on a new regulation regarding the election process of bar associations under the direction of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Hürriyet said on Thursday.

The new regulation will seek to change the election system of bar associations and to open alternative bodies in cities with a large number of lawyers, Hürriyet said.

Erdoğan asked AKP cadres to draft a new regulation on the matter at the party's central committee meeting after a public dispute between the Directorate of Religious Affairs, or Diyanet, and lawyers associations over LGBT rights.

On the first Friday of Ramadan, Diyanet published an anti-gay sermon to be read in all mosques. It said the gay community was the cause of spreading disease and corruption of souls. Several bar associations said the sermon should be considered as hate speech. Erdoğan backed the anti-gay sermon, saying targeting the chief of the religious authority was the same as targeting the state.

The AKP brought a similar regulation regarding bar association elections following controversy around a ceremony marking the beginning of the judicial year at the presidential complex in Ankara last year.

Forty-one provincial bar associations, including those of the three biggest cities - Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir – did not attend a ceremony launching the judicial year hosted by Erdoğan at the Turkish Presidency’s Congress and Culture Centre, citing ethical concerns and judicial independence.

Turkish professional chambers reacted to Erdoğan's statement and the arrangement he planned, saying that "the intolerance of democracy must be stopped," Cumhuriyet reported, quoting a joint statement by the organisations.

”The president's targeting of professional chambers is incompatible with democracy, not to mention the free will of our members, " it said. “The issue of changing the legal regulations of TMMOB, TTB and Medical Chambers and Bar Associations is therefore constantly being raised.”