YÖK accused of interference in politics

The Higher Education Board came under criticism from the opposition parties, after it made a political announcement expressing opposition to a possible bid by PM Recep T. Erdoðan for the presidency.

YÖK accused of interference in politics
The Higher Education Board (YÖK) came under criticism from the opposition parties, with the striking exception of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), after it made a political announcement expressing opposition to a possible bid by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan for the presidency.

"YÖK should mind its own business and, likewise, politicians and the judiciary should mind their own business," said the chairman of the opposition Motherland Party (ANAVATAN), Erkan Mumcu, responding to the statement released by YÖK's Rectors Committee on Thursday.

"It is clear which institution has which duties. To my understanding this statement is an interference in democracy and it is an unjust interference," Mumcu said during a meeting with Recai Kutan, leader of the opposition Saadet (happiness or contentment) Party (SP).

Kutan also backed Mumcu's criticism and said that Thursday's statement was inappropriate. The Rectors Committee, after an extraordinary gathering to discuss the upcoming presidential elections, said that the next president must be impartial and elected through consensus, remarks seen as directed against a possible bid by Erdoðan to seek the top state post. It questioned whether the current Parliament has the legitimacy to elect the next president, saying some 45 percent of the voters are not represented, due to a 10 percent national threshold for party representation in Parliament. In a controversial statement, the committee also backed a legally contested argument, as proposed by the CHP, that at least 367 deputies must be present at a voting session to elect the new president.

The statement, read out at a press conference by YÖK Chairman Erdoðan Teziç, was criticized as an attempt on the part of an institution which is tasked with solving problems of higher education to intervene in politics, by giving an irrelevant opinion on a highly political matter. The governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party) lashed out at the statement, with party group Deputy Chairman Salih Kapusuz saying on Thursday that the statement lacked a constitutional basis and accusing YÖK of acting as the CHP's "political ally." Yesterday Education Minister Hüseyin Çelik declined to comment on the YÖK statement, saying he didn't believe it was even "worth commenting on."

Mehmet Aðar, leader of the opposition True Path Party (DYP), questioned YÖK's insistence that at least 367 deputies must be present for the vote on the new president to begin. "The minimum required number of deputies is 184 by law. No one should challenge the law," he said in Ankara. Aðar expressed objection to YÖK's interference in the presidential election debates, saying the polls would be held in line with democratic rules. "If there is anything wrong, it is the people that will correct it," he said.

Former YÖK Chairman Mehmet Saðlam also backed Aðar on the controversy over how many deputies should be present at the voting, saying that the minimum participation level is clearly set in the Constitution and relevant laws, and that this was set at 184 deputies. Saðlam also said YÖK was not authorized to state political opinions on behalf of the universities. "It is not YÖK's business to state opinion on a matter that has become an issue of political controversy," he was quoted as saying by private ANKA news agency.

DTP: YÖK argument unlawful

Turkey's biggest pro-Kurdish party, the Democratic Society Party (DTP), also joined YÖK's critics. "The Parliament has so far elected 10 presidents and it will use the same criteria it has used in electing the past presidents when electing the 11th," Sýrrý Sakýk, deputy chairman of the DTP, told a press conference. Sakýk said that the argument that the laws require the presence of at least 367 deputies for the vote on president reflected an "unlawful understanding."

In an attempt to effect the presidential election, the CHP has said its deputies would not attend the voting session. It also said it would take the issue of the election in front of the Constitutional Court to get it annulled, if less than 367 deputies are present.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16