40 Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 15, No. 4 (December 2011)President Abdullah Gul, therefore, referred thematter to a public referendum.
The AKP,which drafted the amendments, pointed outthat the proposed changes were vital forimproving Turkey’s democratic standards.
This article, however, argues that theamendments were put before a nationalreferendum in order to
the ability of the judicial branch to delay, even strike down,the legislative initiatives of the governingAKP.As a result of the referendum, the principleof separation of powers has been strained.Until the end of President Ahmet NecdetSezer’s term in 2007, it was believed that heand the Constitutional Court were the onlyremaining forces engaged in scrutinizing theactivities of the legislature and the government,both of which were dominated by the AKP.President Sezer played in important part insending back numerous pieces of legislation toparliament for reconsideration, and referring arecord number for annulment to theConstitutional Court.
These were actions thatfall under the constitutional job definition of the office of the president.Sezer has since been replaced by AbdullahGul, who served as foreign minister in the firstAKP government (2003-2007). With thechange of guard, as the main opposition party,the CHP has led the charge. The CHP hasargued that the AKP is seeking to usedemocratic procedures and institutions tosubvert democratic rule and impose its ownhegemony. After having replaced Sezer with“one of their own” (Gul), there is little to stopthe AKP from churning out any laws it sees fit.Moreover, opposition parties in parliamentlack the number of votes to prevent thepassage of laws, and the office of the presidentis manned by a former AKP member.
Bothformer CHP chairman and its currentchairman (Deniz Baykal
) suspect the AKP’s actualintentions are slowly to transform Turkey intoa type of Muslim democracy by usingdemocratic procedures to remove allimpediments standing in their way.On the opposite side, both the AKP andsome liberal circles of political thought havestressed that the office of the president and the judicial branch have become politicizedthemselves and have overstepped theirconstitutional mandates.
With respect to theoffice of the president, the AKP continuouslyasserted that Sezer was using his powers toundermine the will of the democraticallyelected representatives of the people (in whichsovereignty rests as stated by theconstitution).
The judiciary, mainly withreference to the high courts--ConstitutionalCourt (
), High Court of Appeals (
), Council of State(
), the Court of Numbers (
),and the Supreme Board of Judges andProsecutors (
Hakimler ve Savcilar Yuksek Kurulu
, SBPJ)--has been accused of makingpolitical rulings against AKP-sponsored lawsand engaging in politics. The overall result isthat following eight years of AKP rule, theprinciple of separation of powers is undersevere strain, to the extent that both thegovernment and the named state institutionsare locked into a perpetual battle to underminethe authority of the other. Ultimately, duringthe AKP era, the political battleground hasbeen less defined by parties competing againstone another, and more by the incumbentfighting against state institutions.
THE SEPTEMBER 12 REFERENDUM
The referendum date may have beenintentionally set by the Higher ElectoralCouncil (
Yuksek Secim Kurulu
) to coincidewith the thirtieth anniversary of the country’slast coup d’état. The procedural explanationfor holding the referendum was simple: Inorder for a constitutional amendment to pass,it must conform to the requirements of article175 of the 1982 constitution. Thus, if anamendment receives over 367 parliamentaryvotes (two-thirds of 550), the president caneither send it back for reconsideration, submitit to a national referendum, or sign it into law.If the proposal receives between 330 and 367votes (three-fifths and two-thirds majority),the president can either call for a nationalreferendum or send it back to parliament forreconsideration. In either case, in the event of