Shutting down a political party is remarkably easy in Turkey in comparison with EU member states, a recent study conducted by the Parliamentary Research Center has shown.
Last week the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals filed a case with the Constitutional Court for the closure of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) on charges of it being a "focal point of anti-secular activity." With that move, the ease with which political parties in Turkey can be shut down by the judiciary has come under the spotlight.
The Parliamentary Research Center recently conducted a study on the procedures for closing political parties in European countries to see how things compare with Turkey. The center's paper starts out with a detailed look at the closure procedure in Turkey. Under the current Constitution, the closing down of a political party in Turkey is ultimately decided by the Constitutional Court. A case against a political party can be opened by the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals.
A qualified majority vote of the Constitutional Court's 11 judges is necessary for shutting down a party. Under the Constitution, a political party can be shut down in cases where its program or bylaws threaten the independence of the state or the indivisible unity of the country. A party can also be shut down if it violates the principles of equality, the rule of law, the sovereignty of the people, democracy or secularism. Defending the dictatorship of a particular class or segment of society and encouraging criminal activities are also grounds for closure.
If the members of a given party commit any of the aforementioned offenses, or if any of its senior members, administrative organs or executive decision mechanisms engage -- directly or implicitly -- in such activities or make statements showing that they have adopted such activities as policy, then that party is considered under law to have become a "focal point" for a given offense, necessitating its closure.
The Constitutional Court may also opt for lesser punitive measures against a political party, such as depriving it of Treasury funding. If a party is closed down, its members whose activities or statements have caused the closure are banned from founding a political party or holding membership in one for the next five years.
Finally, Constitutional Court decisions in Turkey are not subject to appeal.
Chief prosecutors have extended powers
Turkey's chief prosecutors have extended authority to request documents from political parties during a closure case. Political parties have a maximum of 15 days to respond to a prosecutor's demand for documents during the course of such an investigation.
Chief prosecutors can file for closure on their own initiative or they can file for closure at the request of the justice minister or by a decree of the Cabinet. Political parties also have the right to file for the closure of another party.
In Europe, the procedures for closing down a political party are usually much more complicated. In Germany, political parties that threaten the free and democratic fundamental system of the state face closure. In Belgium, there is no legislation regulating the closure of parties. In Denmark, though it is possible to close a party by the ruling of a civil court, the decisions can be appealed at the supreme court. In Finland, a prosecutor, political parties and the interior minister can file closure cases but the ultimate ruling can be appealed at the supreme court. In England, there is no legislation regarding the closure of political parties. The process in Spain to shut down a political party is lengthy and complicated. Sweden and Italy do not have legislation for party closures.
What is the case in Europe?
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Mart 2008, 10:01
GERMANY: Political parties that pose a threat to liberal democratic order or to the presence of the Federal Republic of Germany may be banned. The Federal Constitutional Court decides on whether political parties are unconstitutional.
BELGIUM: The country has no legislation concerning party closures.
ESTONIA: Under a law on political parties, those parties aiming and trying to change the Estonian constitutional order forcibly or in violation of penal law are banned. The activities of such parties are terminated.
FINLAND: The interior minister, the state prosecutor and members of political parties can demand party closure. Applications are filed at a regional court, whose decision is reviewed by a civil court and later by the Supreme Court.
NETHERLANDS: Under the Dutch civil code, courts may ban political parties if they disrupt the public order.
UK: There is no legislation concerning party closures.
SPAIN: Under a law on political parties, a political party may be banned if it violates the penal code or persists in breaching fundamental democratic principles or freedoms.
SWEDEN: Its legal system does not contain party closure provisions. The protection of political ideas and opinions is guaranteed.
ITALY: The country has no legislation specifically concerning party closures. However, re-establishment of the closed-down Fascist Party is prohibited.
PORTUGAL: The nation's constitutional court may shut down a political party if it holds that it has adopted a fascist ideology.