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Turkey’s Shift from Presidential System to Turkish-Style Fascism: The Role of Judiciary in the Transition

Let’s begin with our now-standard observations: The understanding that “the law is the servant of politics” prevailing in Turkey has already completely undermined the justice system, which was already far from perfect. Turkey is not a constitutional state. It’s not even a state of law, let alone a state of laws. It doesn’t even comply with its own laws. It doesn’t even comply with its own constitution. The situation summarized in these three to five sentences may seem simple when read. You’ve gotten used to this situation because it has become the norm! However, these are not things that can be easily accepted! Look, for the law to be the servant of politics means that judges and prosecutors do whatever the political authority orders. Victims of this understand what this means for their lives.

But there is also a technical aspect to the matter. That is, the part that concerns the state. This is not what a state should be! This cannot be! If there is a power in a state that can criminalize people as it pleases, there will be no order, stability, predictability, or accountability. Groups targeted by arbitrary persecutions may be groups that many despise and have no sympathy for. It cannot be said that the absence of those who sympathize with these people will not adversely affect the standards of the rest of society. In the end, as the circle of oppression widens, what I mean will be better understood. So, a legal system that has become the servant of politics inevitably brings about a collapse. History is full of examples of this.

After these standard observations, let’s get to the topic of this article.

The former head of the National Intelligence Organization, former foreign minister Hakan Fidan, as you know, is one of the most crucial figures in the regime. In my opinion, he is one of the one or two names who could take over the leadership of the regime after Erdoğan, perhaps the most important one. Fidan is Erdoğan’s confidant. He knows everything Erdoğan does. Due to being an intelligence officer, he has an incredible amount of files in his possession. Thousands of pages of photos, bank receipts, photos, wiretaps, reports, evidence, statements – this file is Erdoğan’s soft spot. Therefore, Fidan is very powerful. Besides being a kind of insurance for himself, this file is also a career guarantee for him. In addition to many influential figures, Fidan’s steadily rising, silent, and deepening career within the regime should be emphasized.

Hakan Fidan made a statement yesterday during the discussion of the Foreign Ministry budget at the Parliamentary Planning and Budget Committee. Responding to criticisms of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decisions on Selahattin Demirtaş and Osman Kavala, Fidan said in response to the criticisms of the politicized trial, “The response to a politicized trial would also be political.”

This is the first official statement from Turkey – and from the highest level – regarding Demirtaş and Kavala’s ‘judicial process,’ and it is a very important historical document. When Fidan refers to a politicized trial, he is saying that the aforementioned ECHR decisions are political decisions. This is important, but even more important is Turkey stating that its response is political. What does that mean, what does the esteemed foreign minister mean by a political response? It means that Turkey does not fulfill its constitutional obligations by not implementing the ECHR decisions. In other words, Fidan has openly admitted that Demirtaş and Kavala are held in prison for political reasons, despite Turkey’s constitutional obligations.

This clearly means, “I am a rogue state!” Turkey not only does not comply with its own constitution but also no longer feels the need to hide it, cover it up, or find excuses for it. It is an Islamist fascism that has become ordinary and normalized! Turkey says, “I won’t recognize the law if I see a political reason!” This is a dangerous threshold.

It is evident that a new stage of authoritarianism has been entered.

Those who expect a softening should focus on this issue and read this message carefully. Turkey not only fails to implement the ECHR decisions; it also acts as an ordinary dictatorship that bends and distorts the law by openly using political reasons to protect the interests of a corrupt-thief-powerful group that is behind the political authority, despite Turkey’s constitutional obligations. They have no complexes about this. They do not feel the need to hide it. They do not make excuses for it.

What is written here is not a commentary or anything because Hakan Fidan’s statement above is clear enough to not require commentary. When he says they gave a “political response,” it means they will imprison those they want to imprison with political justifications. Indeed, using their regime’s data, they have criminalized more than 2.5 million people. These people have been criminalized because politics wanted it. The lives of between 160,000 and 180,000 public servants were darkened using the same method through the Decree Law (KHK) regime. Millions of people were profiled and criminalized using the family-based (Sippenhaft) method. It is possible to give more examples. The common denominator here is the instrumentalization of the law by the political authority. The situation where the law is the servant of politics!

We are not even talking about the politicization of the judiciary; we are in the post-judicial phase where the judiciary completely carries out the orders of politics in Turkey. Hakan Fidan is openly saying this. He is explicitly stating that they gave a political response when he says they gave a political response and, in doing so, acknowledges that Demirtaş and Kavala are held in prison for political reasons.

This is clearly saying, “I am a rogue state.” Turkey not only does not comply with its constitution but also does not feel the need to hide it, cover it up, or make excuses for it anymore. It is an ordinary and normalized form of Islamist fascism! Turkey says, “If I see a political reason, I won’t recognize the law.” This is a dangerous threshold.

A new stage of authoritarianism has been entered.

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Dr. Mehmet Efe Caman is a Scholar of Politics at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). Dr. Caman’s main research focuses on Democracy, democratization and human rights, Turkish politics, the Middle East, Eurasian politics and post-Soviet regions, the European Union. He has published a monograph on Turkish foreign policy, numerous book chapters and scholarly articles in English, German and Turkish about topics related to his research areas.

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