CHP states two conditions for charter amendment on key judicial body

CHP states two conditions for charter amendment on key judicial body

CHP states two conditions for charter amendment on key judicial body

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (2nd L) has met with prominent legal experts and academics as well as Ankara bureau chiefs of newspapers. CİHAN Photo

Turkey’s main opposition party has positively responded to the government’s proposal for a constitutional amendment that would overhaul the country’s key judicial body, on the condition that a proposed bill to increase the ruling party’s control over the judiciary is withdrawn. 

“If it produces a regulation that would effect a more healthy justice system and promote the rule of law by ensuring the independence of judges, why not? Here, intentions are important. If the intention is to promote guarantees for the rule of law and justice, why not?” Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), said at a meeting Jan. 13 with prominent legal experts and academics as well as Ankara bureau chiefs of newspapers. “If we reject this proposal, then they would put all the blame on us as if we are hindering the process.”

Tension is high over the government’s move to make a legal change to undermine the authorities of the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) to the benefit of the justice minister. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ had presented a new proposal to opposition parties to amend the Constitution’s 159th article that shapes the structure and duties of the board.

A justice system free of political interventions 

In a press statement issued after visiting President Abdullah Gül, Kılıçdaroğlu said that in addition to the withdrawal of the bill from Parliament they were also insistent that the government should give assurances that it will allow the proceeding of the corruption and graft investigations. 

“What we want is a judicial system free of political intervention and compatible with EU and Venice Commission standards. We are also asking for the HSYK to be separated into two parts, one for judges and the other for prosecutors,” he said. 

He underlined that if there was be an effort to this end, an interparty reconciliation commission with equal members from parties should be immediately established, under the supervision of Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek. 

Kılıçdaroğlu recalled that Çiçek had recently declared that judicial independence had “collapsed” in Turkey. “The one who has the most responsibility for resurrecting judicial independence is Parliament and its speaker. In this process, Mr. Çiçek has to show whether he is part of the executive or the speaker of Parliament,” he said. 

In the event of the bill passing through Parliament, Kılıçdaroğlu said they would take it to the Constitutional Court.

‘Democracy is slipping through our fingers’

The CHP head also described the ongoing situation as a “big state crisis” that had already paralyzed the justice system and put it under governmental control. “Our democracy is slipping though our fingers. Our 90-year-old history of democratization is under threat of destruction by the government,” he said. 

Kılıçdaroğlu underlined that all the government’s current efforts were simply aimed at escaping the corruption probe, which has already caused resignation of four ministers. “In normal democracies, governments resign in even minor cases of corruption. In Turkey, however, the prime minister is defending corruption,” he said. 

“What lies behind his move to change the HSYK is his effort to nominate prosecutors who will close the file. Just like they did in the Lighthouse charity [corruption] case,” Kılıçdaroğlu added. 

‘No alliance with Gülen community’ 

Another important question related to the CHP’s relations with the Gülen community, or “Cemaat” in Turkish, which has caused some concerns among the staunchly secularist and nationalist groups within the CHP electorate. Kılıçdaroğlu drew a clear line and said the CHP could not consider an alliance with the Gülen community. 

“We will, of course, get closer to the Cemaat if there are corruption claims and if there is a need to fight against this. Other than that, there is no such alliance,” he said, adding that the CHP would “never allow” any political party or group’s efforts to “exploit religion and faith for political purposes … including the Cemaat.”