Turkish Parliament ratifies bill on bar associations

Turkish Parliament ratifies bill on bar associations

Turkish Parliament ratifies bill on bar associations

The Turkish Parliament ratified a disputed bill in the wee hours of July 11, allowing the country’s bar associations to split into smaller groups.

The amendment contains changes in the Lawyers’ Act and some other laws that regulate the duties of the lawyers and the formation of the bar associations.

Ruling AKP and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) lawmakers backed the bill, while all other opposition parties opposed it. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) announced it would challenge the bill at Turkey’s Constitutional Court.

Last month, the AKP submitted the legislation to regulate the country’s bar associations. The objective behind the changes is to reduce the power and influence of three main bar associations, namely Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir, by the formation of alternative associations. 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.

In a last-minute proposal in parliament, the ruling party added a clause to the requirement of the 2,000 members required to establish new bar associations, allowing lawyers in public economic enterprises to also be included even if they are not registered with a bar.

Each bar association in the provinces will be represented by three delegates and a president in the General Assembly of Union of Turkish Bar Associations. The elections for bar associations would be held in the first week of September and in December for the General Assembly of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations. They would be held every two years for the bars and every four years for the union.

On June 20, bar leaders marched toward the capital Ankara to protest the proposed changes. The police, which blocked them from entering the city, said they did not have a permit and were violating social distancing rules amid the coronavirus outbreak. Later, the protesting lawyers were allowed to visit Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of the country’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

As parliament debated the bill, hundreds of lawyers were gathered at a park in downtown Ankara to protest the changes. The bars say they will continue demonstrations throughout the assessment of the Constitutional Court over the amendment.