Turkey's AKP set to weaken largest bar associations following ceremony boycott

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) review a new regulation regarding bar association elections following controversy around a ceremony marking the beginning of the judicial year at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, T24 reported on Sunday.

41 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 Turkish President Recap Tayyip Erdoğan at the Turkish Presidency’s Congress and Culture Centre, citing ethical concerns.

Overall 504 delegates elect the head of Turkish Bars Association (TTB) and the AKP puts on its agenda a new regulation that will reduce the number of delegates of the largest bar associations, T24 said.

The regulation targets Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir bar associations, which have 137, 52 and 29 representatives, respectively.

With the new regulation, the number of representatives of the Istanbul bar association could be decreased to less than 30, according to the news site.

Turkey is ranked 109th out of 126 countries in the 2019 Rule of Law Index prepared by international civil society organisation the World Justice Project. 

The country’s judicial independence has come under increasing question following the July 2016 coup attempt, after which the government began a crackdown on the judiciary and other state bodies.

Activists accuse Erdoğan of blatant interference in judicial decisions, particularly following the June 2018 presidential elections, which gave him sweeping executive powers.