Turkish reforms partly cancelled, referendum set for coup day

The reform package will be put to voters in a referendum on Sept. 12, providing a crucial test for the government ahead of a general election within the next year.

Turkish reforms partly cancelled, referendum set for coup day

Turkey's top court approved most of a constitutional overhaul on Wednesday but annulled some judicial reforms, setting the stage for a contentious referendum on measures the government says are needed to join the EU.

The court annulled parts of measures that would give more powers to the president to appoint judges, but rejected a request by the opposition to throw out the entire package.

Secularist critics see the reforms as an attempt by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party to seize control of all levers of the state and undermine Turkey's secular principles.

Erdogan says the reforms are needed to advance democracy in Turkey and enhance the Muslim nation's bid for EU membership.

"Annulled reforms"

Hasim Kilic, chief judge of the Constitutional Court, said at a news conference that the court made a decision after a debate that lasted for more than nine hours, about the application of 111 MPs for invalidation of some articles of the package.

"The request by the plaintiff for annulment of the package as a whole was rejected. The court unanimously accepted to debate the articles 8, 14, 16, 19, 22 and 26 of the
package under the Article 4 of the Turkish Constitution banning any proposal for amendment to the first three articles of the Constitution," he said.

"Accordingly, the fourth paragraph of the Article 16 of the package amending the Article 146 of the Constitution was cancelled. According to the article, chairmen of the Supreme Court of Appeals, the Council of State, the Military High Court of Appeals, the High Military Administrative Court, the Audit Court, the Higher Education Board and bars were able to vote for only one candidate in election of members they sent to the Constitutional Court," he said.

Kilic told reporters, "the third paragraph of the Article 22 of the package amending the Article 159 of the Constitution was also annulled. Under the article, members of the HSYK to be appointed by the president, will be chosen from high-level executives from the disciplines of economics and politics. The expressions of 'high-level executives' and 'from the disciplines of economics and politics' were cancelled. Election of members of the HSYK from academicians and lawyers from the other disciplines of law will continue."

Kilic added that the package, barring annulled parts, would now go to a referendum on September 12 as planned.

"Test for govt"

The reform package, apart from the annulled portions, will be put to voters in a referendum on Sept. 12, providing a crucial test for the government ahead of a general election within the next year.

Cabinet members criticised the court for vetoing some reforms but made clear their focus was now on the plebiscite.

"Now we have the referendum process. This constitutional change is still a very serious reform of the 1982 constitution despite some articles, sentences being removed," Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said.

"The Constitutional Court made a mistake by addressing the essence of the reforms. This is not right. But the process involving the constitutional court has finished as of now."

The AK party has held power alone since 2002, and its financial reforms have transformed Turkey into one of the world's fastest growing economies with a GDP that has almost tripled in the last eight years.

The deputy chairman of the AK Party group in parliament, Suat Kilic, ruled out an early election.

"Need for updating"

It is widely recognised that a charter written during a period of military rule that followed a coup in 1980 was in need of updating, and most of the amendments proposed by the AK Party, like protecting child rights, are uncontroversial.

But government critics said two amendments concerning the reform of the judiciary would allow the AK party to stack the senior court benches with judges of its own choosing and contravened the principle of separation of powers.

The senior judiciary is seen as the main bastion of Turkey's secularist old guard, as the military has been contained by EU-driven reforms introduced earlier by Erdogan.

The constitutional court deleted language that governed how other judicial bodies nominate candidates for its bench, but left other parts of the reforms intact.

It also annulled proposals to give the president leeway to appoint people from outside to the legal community to the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, a powerful body which has often been at odds with the AK Party.

By coincidence the referendum is scheduled to take place on the 30th anniversary of the military takeover.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 08 Temmuz 2010, 13:33