Ruling AKP mulls arrangement for election systems of professional chambers

Ruling AKP mulls arrangement for election systems of professional chambers

Ruling AKP mulls arrangement for election systems of professional chambers

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) mulls making an arrangement in the election system for professional chambers, primarily for bar associations.

“Let the boards of the chambers and organizations be determined on the ‘relative’ basis, not on the basis of ‘majority,’ let there be participation and pluralism,” Hayati Yazıcı, the AKP’s deputy chair responsible for political and legal affairs, said in a televised interview on May 6.

Recalling statements made by the Ankara Bar Association criticizing the chair of the Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), Ali Erbaş, for his remarks on homosexuality, Yazıcı said the statement was “recklessly attacking and exploiting values.”

“So, do you lack the ability to use your thought and opinion, your right to criticize, without undermining the values that people believe in? If there was pluralism there, I am sure that these issues would be discussed, and if someone has a different opinion, it would be expressed and would take better decisions,” he said.

The issue was also discussed at the Central Executive Board (MYK) meeting of the AKP on May 5, daily Hürriyet reported. The arrangement reportedly will be gradual and start with the bar association in the first place. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged the government to take a step on the issue immediately, the daily reported.

After the MYK meeting, the party members held two separate meetings in parliament. The first meeting was held to discuss the bar elections, while the second meeting was held for other professional associations, Hürriyet reported. In the meeting, the establishment of alternative bar associations in some provinces came up to the agenda. Alternative bar associations will be established in provinces with a high number of members such as Ankara, Istanbul and İzmir and it is planned to remove the obligation of membership. With the planned regulation, there will be changes not only in the bar associations but also in the activities and structure of the bar associations.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) criticized the move of the government, saying that it was preparing a law proposal to change the election system of the bar associations and professional chambers after the Ankara Bar Association lambasted a statement made by the head of Diyanet, which it considered discriminatory towards homosexuality.

Speaking at a press conference on May 6, CHP deputy group chair Engin Özkoç questioned the government’s move to change professional chambers’ election system amid the current agenda of Turkey. “For what solution that aims for,” he asked, suggesting that the AKP does not accept “any organization that it could not leak in.”

The Ankara Bar Association’s criticism on the religious authorities’ statement has led to an investigation launched against them by the Ankara prosecutors’ office.

“Hundreds of thousands of people every year are exposed to the HIV virus caused by this great illicit, which is adultery of illegitimate and unmarried life in Islamic literature. Let’s fight together to protect people from such evil,” Erbaş said during a Friday sermon on April 24 suggesting that homosexuality “causes illnesses and withers generations.”

The Ankara Bar Association responded in a statement accusing Erbaş of inciting the public to hatred and hostility, with many voices also calling his remarks homophobic.