CHP applies to Constitutional Court over multiple bar law
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) applied to the Constitutional Court on July 16 to annul a controversial law known as the “multiple bar” amendment that now permits Turkey’s bar associations to split into smaller groups.
After submitting the application petition, CHP Deputy Chairman Engin Altay told reporters that they applied for the cancellation of 21 of the law’s 28 articles.
“I am sure our application will be accepted,” said Altay.
The CHP’s application came the day after the bill entered force following its publication in the Official Gazette.
Altay said they were attempting to cancel provisions that would increase polarization.
“We have an objection to Article 15. This is the ability of 2,000 lawyers to establish bar associations. The duty of the bar associations is to defend the rule of law and human rights. In our country, provinces are what is understood from the jurisdiction. There are no examples of two bars in the same jurisdiction,” he said.
Altay also said government officials had violated parliament’s bylaws by rushing the bill through commissions too quickly. “This proposal was put on the agenda of the commission before 48 hours.”
The amendment contains changes to the Lawyers’ Act and some other laws that regulate the duties of lawyers and the formation of the bar associations.
Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) lawmakers backed the bill, while all other opposition parties opposed it.
The objective behind the changes is to reduce the power and influence of three main bar associations, namely Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir, by permitting the formation of alternative associations. The bars in those cities are particularly known for their opposition to AKP government policies.
Under the law, bar associations that have more than 5,000 members can split into separate bar associations as long as the prospective new group has at least 2,000 lawyers. Each bar association in the provinces will be represented by three delegates and a president in the General Assembly of Turkish Bar Associations. Elections for bar associations will be held in the first week of September and in December for the General Assembly of the Turkish Bar Associations. There will also be elections every two years for the bars and every four years for the bars.
The proposal will also amend the formation of the General Assembly of Turkish Bar Associations, the umbrella organization of all the provincial bar associations. With the arrangement, provincial associations will enjoy increased representation in the General Assembly, while the Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir bars will send fewer delegates.
On June 20, bar chairs marched toward Ankara to protest the proposal. The police, which blocked them from entering the city, said the lawyers lacked a permit to march and violated social distancing rules amid the coronavirus outbreak. Later, the protesting lawyers were allowed to visit Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of the country’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
As parliament debated the bill, hundreds of lawyers gathered at a park in downtown Ankara to protest the changes. The bars have said they will continue demonstrations while the Constitutional Court evaluates the CHP’s petition.