Left shocked by the lawsuit filed by the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals against the powerful ruling party late Friday, pundits in Ankara have already begun to ponder how this "judicial coup" attempt will end.
According to the Turkish Constitution, there is no timeframe for the Constitutional Court to decide on a party closure file. But, in 1997, it took only eight months for the court to close the Welfare Party, the predecessor of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP). This shows that there is not much time for the "political engineers" in the capital to direct developments to their advantage.
But what is more important then the timeframe is the member composition of the Constitutional Court, which has closed 40 different political parties since its foundation in 1961. Fikret Bila, daily Milliyet's columnist, underlined this reality in his column yesterday but also drew attention to the fact that "the parties were banned because of either acting against the unitary regime of the Republic or being a focal point of anti-secular activities."
"The ban of two political parties has been asked for: The AKP and the Democratic Society Party (DTP)," Bila said, pointing out that the predecessors of these two parties were also closed down by the top court on the same charges.
Sezer's judges in office
Another point is that the general composition of the top court has not changed in the last 10 years. Political observers argued that the majority of judges in the Constitutional Court were appointed by former President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a staunch secularist who was elected as president when he was the head of the top court in 2000.
Out of 11 judges, at least seven of them would vote for the closure of the AKP, these observers claimed. Apart from these predictions, the court's ruling last year to annul the presidential elections in Parliament with the votes of nine judges shows that life will no longer be easy for the AKP.
But the court will signal its possible ruling on the closure of the AKP through another decision on the annulment of the recently approved constitutional amendments package that lifts the headscarf ban in universities, a move that sparked harsh accusation against the government from the judiciary and the military.
Observers in the capital argued that if the court annuls the constitutional amendment on the basis of secularism principle of the Republic that will also send a strong warning to the ruling party.
What will happen if AKP is shut?
In the event of the AKP's closure, the ruling party will not only lose its chairman and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan but also 41 seats in Parliament. The current government will collapse in the absence of its prime minister. But the AKP's remaining 299 deputies could still form a new party, elect a chairman and of course the new prime minister of the country. Many observers argued that the party would face an in-house race for the party's leadership but the new prime minister will be someone selected by Erdoğan himself.
There are already names being mentioned in the capital for the leadership of the party such as Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek, Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Şahin, Foreign Minister Ali Babacan, Interior Minister Beşir Atalay, Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan. Abdüllatif Şener who refused to participate in the July 22 general elections from the AKP ranks, is also seen a potential leader of the new party but Şener cannot be prime minister as he is not a lawmaker.
Another possibility is that the country could face snap general elections as a result of the AKP's closure depending on how long the file remains in court. The country will hold local elections next year in March, where general elections could also be held if the AKP's possible successor decides to do so. The votes of 276 deputies suffice for calling a general election.
"Let them close us, we would get 50 percent of votes," Şahin told reporters in Antalya over the weekend. But there are more optimists among the AKP members. "This time we'll receive 70 percent of votes," said Bülent Arınç, an AKP heavyweight.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 17 Mart 2008, 18:30