Death penalty, NATO and the EU

Death penalty, NATO and the EU

There are new developments on the presidential system and the capital punishment topics after talks between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli. 

Upon Bahçeli’s declaration that the MHP would support a bill reinstating the death penalty, the debate has changed direction. The view on reinstating capital punishment has strengthened. 

The death penalty was to be brought for Fethullah Gülen and the putschists, and also for Abdullah Öcalan and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists. The MHP has been precise on Öcalan since the beginning. It is known that Bahçeli holds Gülen and Öcalan, the coup attempt and PKK terror on the same level. 

However, Bahçeli warns and asks the government to consider the international dimension of reinstating the capital punishment. 

In the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), there are two separate evaluations on capital punishment. The first one is that July 15 is a process; both Gülen and Öcalan can face the death penalty within the scope of a continuous crime. The second one is that even if the death penalty is reinstated, it cannot be retroactive. 

Serious debates are ongoing. In the cabinet meeting headed by Erdoğan, this topic was brought up. The cabinet agrees with Erdoğan but there are also different evaluations. 

The thought was, “Even if the capital punishment is reinstated, Öcalan and Gülen would not be hanged because the penalty is non-retroactive. We would be reinstating the death penalty but we would not be able to execute. Our image would be smashed. NATO will expel us.” 

Upon this, the president intervened, “How can they expel us from NATO? There is a death penalty in the U.S.” Then, it was stated that in the U.S. legal system, the death penalty has always been maintained whereas in EU law which Turkey is a party to, there is no death penalty. 

A decision has not been made yet. However, some of the legal experts in the AK Party argue that this could be applied to Öcalan but not to Gülen. Some others argue the opposite. Those who argue that it can be applied to Gülen believe that the July 15 process is going on without interruption. Those who argue that it can be applied to Öcalan are aware that the death penalty cannot be given to him as his case has been closed. Only if in the PKK’s new attacks an order given by Öcalan can be traced, could he be retried. 

When Öcalan was sentenced to death, the MHP was the coalition partner. In a 7.5-hour meeting presided by then-Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit, Bahçeli did not break the coalition, putting the vital interests of the country first. Even though he paid the political price, he acted with common sense. 

Some AK Party members have this question in their minds. When the death sentence was given to Öcalan, the MHP was the coalition partner. Why is Bahçeli, who did not hang Öcalan then, bringing it up now?  

My impression on the death penalty is that they will take it slowly. I had the impression that the death penalty topic might be left to cool. 

In the presidential system, on the other hand, Erdoğan has not given any perspective. Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım will come together and decide on a calendar. This matter should be clarified this week. Instead of a comprehensive amendment, they are focusing on an arrangement that could be processed “as fast as possible.”  

For a while, the practices of the government and MHP policies have overlapped. This is so in the fight against the PKK, the arrests of HDP deputies, the appointment of caretakers to HDP municipalities, as well as the “Shield of Euphrates” and Mosul operations. In these issues, Erdoğan has taken the lead to an extent that would also meet the expectations of the MHP. 

Also, Erdoğan and Bahçeli regard the situation our country is facing as a “survival of the country” issue. 
Certain AK Party members are also questioning that while the presidential system is based on a two-party system, this would harm the MHP. Why should Bahçeli consent to this system?  

The question is important, but the process is more important.