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Erdoğan’s Bold Move: Plans to Restrict Constitutional Court Powers in Turkey

Ersoy Celik*

In a striking revelation, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has openly declared his intent to fundamentally restructure the nation’s judiciary. Speaking at a party group meeting, Erdoğan responded to the criminal complaint filed by the Court of Cassation against members of the Constitutional Court, indicating a willingness to make sweeping changes to the constitution and laws if necessary. This move, as Erdoğan suggests, aims to significantly limit the powers of the Constitutional Court, potentially removing a critical check on his administration in what is seen as a step towards a more authoritarian regime.

Turkey has been in a state of shock following the announcement by the 3rd Chamber of the Court of Cassation. This unprecedented declaration marked the refusal to implement a binding decision of the Constitutional Court involving Can Atalay, a deputy of the Turkey Workers’ Party. Additionally, a criminal complaint against the members of the Constitutional Court is in the offing, a move unheard of in the history of the Republic’s high judiciary.

Analysts interpret this development as a controlled crisis, a strategic move by Erdoğan to curb the powers of the Constitutional Court, an institution that, despite being largely composed of his appointees, has occasionally made decisions not aligned with his preferences. By potentially dismantling the Constitutional Court, Erdoğan would remove the last significant legal barrier to his governance, raising serious concerns about the state of democracy and judicial independence in Turkey.

In his address, Erdoğan claimed his position as an arbiter, not a participant, in this unfolding drama, while simultaneously stressing that no institution in Turkey, including the high courts, is beyond criticism or change. This rhetoric, however, is seen as a smokescreen for a more direct control over the judicial system.

The situation draws parallels with the dystopian narrative in George Orwell’s “1984,” where the absence of law equates to the absence of illegality. This analogy captures the gravity of the current scenario in Turkey, where Erdoğan’s decisions could fundamentally alter the legal landscape.

Erdoğan’s history of interactions with the Constitutional Court, especially since the transition to the Presidential Government System, reveals a pattern of disregarding constitutional constraints. His latest move, perceived as an attempt to eliminate the last vestige of judicial oversight, could render the Constitution merely symbolic, akin to wallpaper, devoid of its intended power and authority.

As Turkey grapples with these developments, the international community watches closely, concerned about the potential erosion of democratic principles and judicial independence in a key regional player.

*Ersoy Celik is a journalist and political analyst focusing on Turkish politics.

*This article was originally published in Bold Media and translated into English by Politurco.

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