AK Party ready for any eventuality

AK Party leader Erdoğan has decided to change the Constitution and Turkey's laws on political parties within the next 10 days to disable the prosecutor's authority to file for the disbandment of political parties.

AK Party ready for any eventuality
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), currently facing the threat of closure, has decided on a course of action to defend itself after mulling over the developments of the past few days sparked by a Friday filing of charges by a state prosecutor against the party, accusing it of having become a center of anti-secular activity.

The prosecutor who filed the case, Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya, also demanded that 71 party members, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül (who served as foreign minister in the previous AK Party Cabinet), be banned from politics for five years.

AK Party leader Erdoğan has decided to change the Constitution and Turkey's laws on political parties within the next 10 days to disable the prosecutor's authority to file for the disbandment of political parties. Speaking to Today's Zaman on the issue, Nihat Ergün, deputy chairman of the AK Party's parliamentary group assured that the issue of closure would be off the Turkish agenda within the next two weeks at most. "We can't simply sit down and watch the blazes burn the economy. Parliament will take this issue off Turkey's agenda within the next 10 or 15 days," he said.

The AK Party believes that a ruling in favor of its closure emerging from the Constitutional Court is highly unlikely. AK Party legal professionals who reviewed the indictment prepared by Yalçınkaya say the accusations are too hard to prove and the prosecution's evidence too shaky, making the case a weak one. One scenario is that the Constitutional Court may refuse to hear the case at all and dismiss the indictment. AK Party officials believe this is a viable option, pointing out to many material mistakes that found their way into the indictment.

In the worst case scenario, according to AK Party officials, the court might go ahead with the case. However, even in that case they do not expect the party's closure as a result. The worst ruling would entail a warning issued to the 71 politicians facing disbarment from politics for the next five years in the current indictment and perhaps some financial measures that would block or restrict the AK Party's access to Treasury aid granted to political parties. However even that would a farfetched scenario, AK Party legal staffers believe.

In the past, the Constitutional Court shut down the Welfare Party (RP) and its successor Virtue Party (FP) because these two parties were allegedly becoming centers of anti-secular activity in Turkey. AK Party's Ergün recalls that the FP was in the offing when it became obvious that the RP would be shut down. While the due process was under way for the closure of the FP, the party members had already rolled sleeves to start the Felicity Party (SP). AK Party officials say their party cannot be associated with any of these parties in anyway, adding that they will not be establishing a new party.

Instead, the AK Party will try to pass constitutional changes, which the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has also said it would back, that make it harder for judicial organs to shut down political parties. The Constitution will be amended according to a proposal drafted after the AK Party reviews the constitutions and legal norms of Germany, Portugal, Spain and Italy, four countries that have rules on closing down parties inscribed in their constitutions. A hybrid average of the norms common to these four countries will be integrated into Turkey's Constitution, according to the AK Party plan.

When the changes take effect, AK Party officials say the principle will be to hold responsible or convict only the leader or members of the executive branches of the party accused of criminal activity. In addition to that principle, nothing less than very serious evidence of a threat -- such as directly praising violence -- will be acceptable grounds for closing down a party. Also, the constitutional change will remove the law that contains a political ban on the senior members of a party that is closed down.

Ergün says, "Since the change will take place within the next 15 to 20 days and the Constitutional Court will take, they say, as long as six months to decide, the new Constitution will most certainly influence the ruling, although it will not serve to dismiss the case if the court decides to hear it."

Scenarios outside the AK Party

There are a number of possibilities that could occur in the next few days, according to legal experts outside the AK Party. One of these, which is very likely according to AK Party officials, is that the Constitutional Court will reject the indictment on technical grounds. In that case, however, the Chief Prosecutor's Office would still have the opportunity to correct the technical errors noted and reapply with a technically corrected document. So if at any time during the process the Constitutional Court finds the indictment to be "acceptable," the court case will have officially opened.

A change made to the Constitution in 2001 makes shutting down political parties considerably harder than it previously was. Earlier, the vote of six of the 11 Constitutional Court judges was sufficient. Currently, seven of the judges must vote for closure.

Another possibility is that the Constitutional Court will rule that the AK Party deserves punishment for its activities, but punishment other than closure. In this case, the AK Party's access to political party aid granted by the Treasury might be restricted.

If the worst-case scenario occurs and the AK Party is shut down, it would also mean the fall of the government. Hundreds of parliamentary deputies will become independents. In case of the resignation of these deputies, Turkey might have to hold early polls.

If the party is disbanded, Erdoğan will be banned from politics. He will, however, be able to continue serving in Parliament as an independent deputy.

Today's Zaman

Güncelleme Tarihi: 19 Mart 2008, 10:03