Turkey’s state of emergency to finally be lifted?
It is good news that the government plans to finally lift the state of emergency, although the action has been postponed until after the snap presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24. The two major contenders in the elections, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) nominee Muharrem İnce have both pledged to do so.
However, it is not enough to just lift the state of emergency. Parliament should also correct the laws that have been changed by state of emergency decrees.
The Turkish government was justified in declaring a state of emergency after the defeated July 2016 coup attempt, notifying the Council of Europe that it had suspended the European Convention on Human Rights.
“We are planning to lift the state of emergency in 40 to 45 days. We will definitely not impose curfews,” government spokesperson Numan Kurtulmuş had said back on June 21, 2016.
In 2015, the government imposed curfews in a number of districts in southeastern provinces during urban anti-terror operations without feeling the need to declaring states of emergency. Ordinary laws also give the government the necessary authority to fight against terrorism.
Back on June 22, 2010, then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told parliament that fighting terrorism does not necessitate declaring a state of emergency. “Demanding a state of emergency means yielding to terrorism,” he said.
What’s more, in order to carry out cross-border military operations such as the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations inside Syria, as well as the current operation against the Kandil region of northern Iraq, normal laws are sufficient.
However, the current post-coup attempt state of emergency has been extended for two years now.
“The state of emergency is the biggest factor damaging perceptions of Turkey with regard to direct foreign investments and capital inflows,” Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek told private broadcaster NTV on June 14.
That is true, because emergency decrees have also been used in many areas unrelated to the coup attempt or terrorism.
This has affected the economy adversely, as Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci also admitted on Nov. 26, 2016. On Dec. 1, 2016, Cansen Başaran-Symes, then chair of the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD), said the same thing. On Nov. 28, 2016, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım also pledged to lift emergency rule. “We will not let them say that we have held a referendum under emergency law. We will lift the state of emergency before the referendum [on April 16, 2017],” said Yıldırım.
He said that a year-and-a-half ago, but the state of emergency is still in place today. The April 2017 referendum was held under emergency rule and the upcoming elections will too.
The May 2017 report from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) shows just how Turkey’s image has been damaged by the state of emergency. Such reports are widely read by investors.
Anyway, it is good to hear President Erdoğan pledge to lift the state of emergency if he is reelected.
That is not to say that emergency rule has not been abused over the last two years. For example, Article 149/A of the Electoral Law, regulating the fairness and impartiality of broadcasts during election campaigns and imposing fines on broadcasters that violated the rules. However, that article was revoked by the State of Emergency Decree No: 687 on Feb. 9, 2017.
What does that have to do with terrorism or security?
Other changes to fundamental laws have been passed without any judicial review because of the state of emergency. After the election, parliament should prioritize correcting these changes.
This is not about one political party or another. We should evaluate the situation within the principles of the rule of law.