Government draws up plans against failure at judicial body elections

Government draws up plans against failure at judicial body elections

Oya Armutçu ANKARA
Government draws up plans against failure at judicial body elections

The judiciary is seen as one of the arenas in the bitter struggle between the government and its bête noire, the Gülen movement. AA Photo

Disappointed by the first two rounds of the elections at the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), the government is planning to change the election system of the key judicial body, leading ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) figures have confirmed.

Speaking in a televised interview on Sept. 29, AKP Deputy Head Mustafa Şentop said the party was “looking to reshape the structure of the HSYK.”

“We will certainly do this,” Şentop said, adding that this might even take place along with the general elections scheduled for next June.

“We might take the issue to a referendum simultaneously with the elections,” he said, stressing that opposition parties also have suggestions on the issue.

The government argues that the Gülen movement under U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen is trying to take control of the judiciary. The Gülenists and the ruling party have been at odds since the corruption probe last year, which embroiled a number of Cabinet ministers and their families but was later stifled by the government. The AKP accuses the Gülen movement of organizing a plot against the elected government, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu taking a harsh stance against what they call the “parallel state.”

Erdoğan and Davutoğlu have gone to great lengths in recent months to remove suspected Gülen supporters from the judicial system, the police and the army.

“Today, what we call ‘parallel’ is a structure that claims to be a religious community. In the future, we might face other structures. We should organize the ground [of the judiciary] so well that no place is left to tutelage revolts,” Şentop also said. 

The Council of State sends two full members and two substitute members to the HSYK, and its election on Sept. 29 was the second round of the HSYK elections.

Taci Bayhan, known as a social democrat, received the highest number of votes, while Şaban Işık, who is reportedly close to the Gülen movement, became the second full member. Emin Sınmaz, known for ties to the Unity in Justice Platform (YBP), said to be close to the government, was only elected as the second substitute member.

The government had already lost the elections for the Supreme Court of Appeals, known as the first round of the HSYK vote, with reports saying that no government allies were elected to the three permanent seats at the court, and only one substitute member was close to the YBP.

The government will respect the results of the upcoming elections at the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ stressed on Sept. 26, despite previous suggestions that it would cancel the results if groups tied to the “parallel state” win the vote.

“The decisions our judges and prosecutors will make [in the elections] are legitimate, similar to the one that was made about the Supreme Court of Appeals,” Bozdağ said.

His remarks came after Mahir Ünal, a deputy leader of the AKP’s parliamentary group, said while commenting on the elections that a group behind the so-called “coup attempt” in December 2013 was trying to take over Turkey’s judiciary.

Ünal had said the AKP would dismiss the elections as illegitimate if the Gülenists won.

An additional 10 full members and six substitute members of the HSYK will be selected in the elections on Oct. 12.

The justice minister and the ministry’s undersecretary are the two permanent members. The Justice Academy will appoint one member in addition to four others to be appointed by Erdoğan, amounting to 22 full members.

Sources have said the government might consider a constitutional change on the issue if it cannot gain a total of 12 seats out of 22.

One of the plans on the agenda is appointing Parliament to choose the HSYK members, where the AKP holds the majority, they said.