Prof Özbudun, Venice Commission: Turkish Gov't fighting very institutions it shaped

Prominent professor of constitutional law and one of the writers of a draft constitution for the government in 2007 Ergun Özbudun has said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is fighting against the very institutions it shaped with recent legislative changes.

Speaking at the Covering Turkey event on Tuesday organized by the Medialog Platform in İstanbul, Özbudun said the government has been trying to reverse the reforms it introduced via constitutional amendments in a 2010 referendum.
Stating that the changes in 2010 were in line with EU countries, Özbudun noted there is now interference in the rule of law in Turkey despite the “courageous and correct” decisions of the Constitutional Court to overturn some of the laws issued by the AK Party government.
He said the court had found 11 provisions of a new law on the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), the top judicial body, unconstitutional. According to Özbudun, the government desires to make the judiciary more “subservient” to the government, which places the rule of law in Turkey “in danger.”

The seasoned professor, who supported AK Party policies up until a few years ago, also drew attention to another danger in the country.

According to Özbudun, there has been a shift within the AK Party government towards a more majoritarian form of democracy with more conservative tones.

“A majoritarian drift is a fact,” Özbudun pointed out, noting the ballot box is a necessary but insufficient condition for democracy. “Democracy does not mean the unlimited power of the legislative,” the professor noted in his address to a group of foreign journalists attending the Covering Turkey event. According to Özbudun, to the AK Party, however, the ballot box is the only source of legitimacy.

Stating that the AK Party does not have the absolute majority to change the Constitution under the current circumstances, Professor Özbudun said they are considering changing the electoral system to obtain such a majority. According to him, although the AK Party was unable to switch to a presidential system, the party seems insistent on such a change, especially as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is in favor of a “super presidential” system.

“The current proportional representation system does not give the AK Party the desired majority,” Özbudun says, adding the government is considering even less proportional systems, such as the single-member constituency system, to be able to amend the Constitution. However, Özbudun believes the Constitutional Court may find such a change to the electoral system unconstitutional as electoral laws must reconcile stability and fairness.
Raising his objection to a recently passed intelligence law, Özbudun said the rights granted to the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) to request personal data from various organizations is a violation of citizens’ privacy. “It is almost certain this will be challenged by the Constitutional Court,” Özbudun argued.
A legal expert who served in the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission for 24 years, Özbudun said the reactions of the commission to the changes in Turkey have been truly negative. He noted the commission had supported the AK Party government during the constitutional amendments in 2010, but said there is now a discontinuity in the government’s actions.

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