Ruling AKP submits bill to overhaul structure of bar associations
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has introduced a comprehensive bill to parliament to change the structure and election systems of bar associations with an objective to reduce the power and influence of three main bar associations, namely Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir, by the formation of alternative associations.
“Why are making this arrangement? First, we have observed that the bar associations are no longer able to perform their duties cited in the constitution and the laws under the current circumstances. Second, the rapidly increasing number of lawyers in the last 20 years, particularly in Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir, has created a complete disconnection between the bar associations and their members,” the deputy parliamentary group leader of the AKP, Cahit Özkan, told reporters on June 30 after the draft bill was submitted to parliament.
After a weekly cabinet meeting late June 29, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stressed that his government was determined to bring about a more democratic structure for the bar associations. “We are mulling a multiple bar association system,” he stated.
The 28-article bill contains changes on the Lawyer’ Act and some other laws that regulate the duties of the lawyers and formation of the bar associations. The bill is supported by the AKP’s main ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), while all the other opposition parties announced their opposition to the changes. The bar associations are also against the proposed regulations as they vow to continue to protest the drafted bill.
2,000 lawyers may form own body
Özkan recalled that the number of lawyers has already exceeded 130,000, with 50,000 of them in Istanbul, 20,000 in Ankara and 10,000 in İzmir.
According to the proposal, in provinces with more than 5,000 lawyers, 2,000 lawyers will be able to form their own bar association by submitting a petition signed by four founding members to the Turkey Bar Association. That practically gives the right to form 25 different bar associations in Istanbul, 10 in Ankara and five in İzmir. In order to avoid confusion, the bar associations will be enumerated in cities where multiple associations exist.
The proposal will also amend the formation of the General Assembly of Turkey Bar Association, the umbrella organization of all the provincial bar associations. With the arrangement, provincial associations will have an increased presence at the General Assembly, while the number of delegates sent by Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir will be reduced.
The Turkey Bar Association may hold an extraordinary convention upon a call by 25 provincial associations, but no polls for a change of the brass can be brought to the agenda at extraordinary meetings, the draft bill stresses. This provision is believed to be inserted to stop the powerful bar associations from trying to oust sitting President of Turkey Bar Association Metin Feyzioğlu.
The provincial bar associations will have to renew the elections for the leadership and all other positions in October 2020 and the General Assembly of the Turkey Bar Associations will be convened in December 2020 to elect the new president.
Lawyers object to bill
Turkey’s largest bas association in Istanbul protested the government’s bill at a meeting in front of the Çağlayan Courthouse in the city. The president of the Istanbul Bar Association, Mehmet Durakoğlu, described the meeting as a call for the rule of law and called on all the participants not to carry placards with political statements.