Turkish Constitutional Reform with ***CUTE KITTENS*** Bonus!!!

 
Scott Reusser: An observation: Your three posts today on the Middle East are stalled at a total of 4 comments; your one post on pets has 33 and counting. Pretty sure that’s not a good thing. · Jul 9 at 4:16pm

Claire Berlinski: I noticed that too, Scott. In the future I plan to lure our readers into a spirited discussion of the merits and demerits of the proposed Turkish constitutional reform package with photos of my five rescued kittens jumping adorably in and out of my laundry basket. · Jul 9 at 11:16pm

I know, I know: It takes a spoonful of sugar to make Turkish constitutional reform go down. I do understand that this sounds like a hell of a boring subject. But be patient. If you read through this post, I’ll show you some adorable kitten photos. And actually, it’s not a boring subject.

The devil, as Tallyrand said, is in the details. (My God: Not only is she going to write about Turkish constitutional reform, she’s going to bang on about the details? Eds: Suck it up. The kittens are coming.)

Of the many possible approaches to Turkish constitutional reform, the particulars introduced by the AKP rather blatantly give it partisan, perhaps permanent, institutionalized advantage. The Istanbul-based expert Gareth Jenkins concludes in Turkey Analyst that while “the higher courts in Turkey have hardly been impartial,” nevertheless “numerous examples of the politically motivated abuse of power by AKP officials and party sympathizers in the lower echelons of the judiciary and the law enforcement system[…] taken together with the self-serving selectivity of the content of the AKP’s proposed constitutional amendments[…] raise concerns that the package will not serve the goal of moving Turkey closer to a pluralistic fully-functioning democracy.”

Jenkins specifically explains that although the provisions for restructuring the Supreme Board of Prosecutors and Judges (HSYK, which nominates judges) are “broadly in line with the recommendations of the EU report of April 2009,” nevertheless “the AKP [preserves its] current influence on the council while […] diluting any opposition to the government” by “retaining the Justice Minister as chair of the HSYK.”

(Keep reading! Your kitten bonus is nearly here!)

The EU report, on the other hand, specifically “described the presence on the HSYK of the Justice Minister as chair of the council as being incompatible with the separation of powers.” At the same time, the AKP reform package illogically invokes the separation of powers to make it actually more difficult for the Constitutional Court to conduct judicial review of the constitutionality of parliamentary legislation.

In addition, the proposed amendments call for increasing the Constitutional Court’s membership from 11 to 17, of which the president (currently Abdullah Gül, a former AKP politician) would appoint 14. The Islamic-leaning newspaper Zaman quotes no less a figure than former president Ahmet Necdet Sezer as saying, “If this [series of changes concerning the judicial branch] passes, the rule of law will be destroyed completely. The principle of separation of powers will become the unity of powers.”

The AKP does not have the votes in the Grand National Assembly to pass the constitutional amendments outright, but it is strong enough to force a popular referendum on them and to decide the terms of that referendum (e.g. up-or-down as a package vs. voting on each amendment individually). Jenkins remarks that if the Constitutional Court were asked to decide the constitutionality of the present reform package, and if its consideration of the question were delayed (as Sezer thinks would be legally necessary) until after the referendum now planned for June, then “some of the members of the newly expanded Constitutional Court could effectively be asked to vote on whether or not they should retain their posts.”

Last Wednesday, the Turkish Constitutional Court annulled part of the proposed reform package. Now it’s going to go to a referendum, on September 12. That’s an important date to watch, if you’re concerned about the future of Turkey, and really, you should be–it’s a massively significant country, with the second-largest army in NATO; it provides a crucial energy route to Europe; its pipelines are going to be overbrimming with oil and gas from the Caspian; it’s sitting on most of the water in the greater Middle East. The West needs Turkey to be a stable, prosperous democracy. We don’t exactly have enough friends in this region to say, “Gee, too bad about Turkey!” do we? And besides, I live here. And so do 70 million other people. And so do a lot of kittens.

Enough of that! Thank you for your patience! Here’s your bonus!

Daisy–is she cute or what?

IMG_1136.jpg

Adorable Mo, winsome Toshiro, cuddly Zeki, darling Daisy and snuggly Suleyman — all rescued from the streets of Turkey, an interesting country with some serious constitutional law issues.

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  1. Profile Photo Member
    @

    So, to paraphrase your quote from Turkey Analyst, this bill is another indication that a fully-functioning pluralist democracy is not the goal AKP is looking to move towards. Great.

    …Awwww, kittens! I hope for Mo’s sake his name isn’t a blasphemous abbreviation, given his country of residence!

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Member
    @Sisyphus

    Umm.  Allergic to cats, actually.  Sorry.  

    And the relentless drumbeat of Islamic atrocities against each other, their own, and the rule of law is a dog bites man story at this point.  The secular military in Turkey that has interceded repeatedly in the past shows no sign of willingness to move against the AKP.  Small wonder, with the Archbishop of Canterbury backing Sharia Law in Muslim majority districts and the US cheerfully acceding to Wahhabi dominance of US Islamic worship centers and madrassas (these messages of Wahhabi hate and racism brought to you by our Saudi “allies”).  And the French, of course, toast marshmallows at the 200 nightly burning cars set afire like clockwork for years as part of the worship services for the “Religion of Peace”.

    The US signaled its surrender to the world with the last Presidential election, and is now systematically being rendered a debt ridden Marxist pest hole by the duly elected owners of GM and Chrysler and some number of banks.  (They call it “stimulus”, you have to love that sense of humor.)

    The loss of Turkey to the civilized world is regrettable.  The joblessness here, and Federal hostility to the people, even moreso. 

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Editor
    @Claire
    Jason Hart:

    …Awwww, kittens! I hope for Mo’s sake his name isn’t a blasphemous abbreviation, given his country of residence! · Jul 10 at 7:58am

    Oh, no–is it that obvious?

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Editor
    @Claire
    kcarlin: The US signaled its surrender to the world with the last Presidential election, and is now systematically being rendered a debt ridden Marxist pest hole by the duly elected owners of GM and Chrysler and some number of banks. (They call it “stimulus”, you have to love that sense of humor.)

    The loss of Turkey to the civilized world is regrettable. The joblessness here, and Federal hostility to the people, even moreso. · Jul 10 at 8:05amkmn

    You’re not cheering me up, kcarlin. These thoughts keep me up at 3:00 am. You might try allergy shots. I find the animals pretty reliably comforting when not much else is.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Member
    @JimChase

    Ms. Berlinski, the report you quote indicated that the AKP doesn’t have the votes in the assembly to pass the amendments, but is strong enough to force a popular referendum. What would drive popular sentiment to consider seriously transforming their constitution in this way? Is it primarily domestic concerns? Or is it more related to a sense of weakness in traditional alliances (NATO)? Or further, has the attitude toward the West degraded because of EU-related politics and membership status? All of the above?

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Editor
    @Claire

    Good question, Mr. Chase. The fundamental problem is that the Turkish Constitution is undermined by the issue of its legitimacy: It was ratified by referendum in 1982, when Turkey was ruled by a military junta, and no public debate on its terms was permitted. Even a cursory read of the document shows it to be legally incoherent. It functions mostly in the logical sense that you can derive anything from a contradiction. So constitutional reform is very necessary; everyone knows it, and everyone has wanted it for a very long time. Voters may approve the package out of sheer impatience: It is, after all, something–and some of the proposed amendments are salutary and uncontroversial. But they may not be fully aware of the potential ramifications of the small print.

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Member
    @JimChase

    I find myself hesitant to attempt a value judgment of the proposed changes, insofar as I understand them, on the basis of their “right” to self-determination. I probably shouldn’t even comment given my lack of knowledge of the subject matter. If the changes had been proposed by any group other than the increasingly anti-West AKP, would the concern be the same? For instance, in the U.S., in practice anyway, we value civilian control over the military and a judiciary that has independence – but not unlimited authority. Would we have the same anxiety over the direction of these reforms if the majority party was pro-West?

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Editor
    @Claire
    Jim Chase: Would we have the same anxiety over the direction of these reforms if the majority party was pro-West? · Jul 10 at 9:50am

    I wouldn’t have the same level of anxiety, no. I’d certainly still have some anxiety: It’s a structural weakness to allow so much power to be concentrated in the executive branch, and in a country like Turkey, where authoritarianism is a far more natural political reflex than power-sharing, a dangerous weakness.

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Member
    @JimChase

    Thanks for the dialog and the insight, Ms. Berlinski. On a much lighter note, the kittens have brought forth the mighty Google … ads for Purina and Friskies abound!

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Member
    @ScottR

    My God, it’s working! 10 posts and counting on a Saturday! Woohoo!

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Editor
    @Claire

    I wish the constitutional lawyers here were bigger kitten fans; I’d be curious to know what they think. Think Yoo and Epstein would go for puppies? Little baby elephants?

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Inactive
    @TheMugwump

    It suddenly struck me that the Navi of Avatar fame have cat-like faces. Purposeful manipulation?

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Inactive
    @FeliciaB

    Alright, I’ll admit it. I began reading the post then got bogged down in all of the details, yada, yada, yada, and skipped to the kittens. They’re sooo cute, Cat Lady!

    Then feeling extraordinarily guilty over my hallow vapidness, went back and read the post. And because I like reading your and Scott’s posts so much decided to post. There.

    Claire Berlinski: Voters may approve the package out of sheer impatience: It is, after all, something–and some of the proposed amendments are salutary and uncontroversial. But they may not be fully aware of the potential ramifications of the small print. · Jul 10 at 9:14am

    This sounds a lot like the motivations behind the 30 some odd percent of people who actually supported Obamacare or even people who voted for Obama in the first place. There’s this sad failure to see long-term ramifications in anything.

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Member
    @

    This is old news, but the Honduras constitutional crisis last year (often called a ‘coup’ in the leftist echo chamber of the “international press”) had similar elements.

    President Zelaya, limited by the Constitution to one term, decides to hold a citizen’s referendum on– guess what– writing a new Constitution. Forbidden by the current Constitution to even discuss eliminating term limits, he is very circumspect about his purposes, but finally does admit that is one of his goals.

    The referendum is declared unconstitutional– only the Congress can initiate referenda– but he proceeds anyways. After the military seizes ballots flown in from Venezuela, President Zelaya leads a mob to storm the military base and reclaim the ballots. The Supreme Court meets, and in an emergency session, orders his arrest. The military makes the arrest and then blunders by sending him abroad immediately where he can rally international support for his cause.

    Fortunately, the Honduran people stood firm and resisted international pressure. The leader of Congress, from Zelaya’s own party, who swore him in for his inauguration, is next in line for the Presidency and assumes it until regularly scheduled elections are held and a new Constitutional president is elected.

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Using democracy to weaken and undermine democracy– that is the name of the game for these kinds of dictatorships going way back to the time of Hitler and even before. Use referenda (“let’s listen to the citizen’s voice”) to undermine other institutions. Stack the courts with your people, divide the opposition, get your thugs to impersonate mobs of “angry citizens” to intimidate anyone who stands up against you, and so on.

    The end result is a concentration of power in the hands of one party and eventually one individual. Checks and balances exist for a reason, and we should guard them with our lives even if it is our own party who might benefit by their removal.

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  16. Profile Photo Inactive
    @AaronMiller

    Lack of comments doesn’t imply lack of interest. I always enjoy your posts, Claire, but generally leave those issues to more knowledgeable people to comment on.

    Perhaps you should coax Rob into sharing access to the Google Analytics stats. An article on my old blog was viewed over a thousand times but received fewer comments than this thread.

    • #16
  17. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Lilium

    I know so little about events in your neck of the woods, Ms Berlinksi that I read them as a student in need of educating and bow to your superior knowledge of these things.

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Editor
    @Claire
    Aaron Miller: Lack of comments doesn’t imply lack of interest.

    You know, I wonder if that’s right. It certainly doesn’t imply a lack of interest in some cultures, but Americans are not a shy people. If they’re interested in something, they tend to start talking about it, or at least asking about it, whether or not they’re knowledgeable about it. Readers do, generally, find Turkish politics a boring, rebarbative subject. The fault is mine; I’ve somehow failed effectively to communicate the drama of the whole business.

    • #18
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