بِسْـــمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰـــنِ الرَّحِيـــم
Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, the Chief Prosecutor of Turkey petitioned the Turkish Contitution Court on the evening of Friday, 14th March, 2008 asking the court to close down the ruling Justice and Development Party, the AKP and ban its political activities along with 71 of its politicians, especially the republic’s president Abdullah Gul, Recep Tayyip Erdugan, the Prime Minister, former speaker of the parliament Bulent Arinsh for 5 years.
Under the authority vested with the chief prosecutor office in the constituion court, he monitors the activities of the political parties, their statements as well as the activities of their leaders. He studies their compliance with the constitution as well as the pricicples on which the republic is founded. The chief prosecutor documents and archives all statements and press releases issued by these political parties and their leaders. His monitoring of the activities of political parties is to ensure that the prosecutor is satified that a certain political party is has reached a level of violations that necessitates its closure and thus he petitions the constitutional court to close down the party.
As is known, the AKP ever since its inception in 2001 has been under the scrutiny of the chief prosecutor. Previously the chief prosecutor had brought out a similar petition before the constitution court against the Kurdistan Democratic Party (DTP) for its closure.
The importance of the petition against the AKP for its closure is that the AKP is no ordinary party, it is the ruling party with special features; the president of the republic and the speaker of the parliament are its senior leaders, while the prime minister and other ministers are members of the Justice & Development Party. The AKP in the last general elections received popular support and secured 47% votes. Above all, the AKP is not averse to a secular character both from a legal perspective and visibly. Therefore the bold and blatant petition has been received with surprise and apprehension both at home and abroad.
According to the information released by the media, the petition submitted by the chief prosecutor comprisng 160 pages cites the violations committed by the AKP and its hostility to secularism. The chief prosecutor has accused the AKP of targeting the secular foundations of the republic aimed at forming a state based on religion. He has charged the Justice & Development Party of attempting to transform the secular republic of Turkey into a state based on “Moderate Islam”, and alleged that the senior leaders of the AKP who swear by secularism only do so as a matter of ‘Taqiyyah’ and the AKP is merely Welfare and Virtue Party, which was earlier banned.
The Constitution Court began its proceedings under the petition on 17th March, 2008 and under its procedures in similar cases the following scenarios are expected:
First of all from a legal perspective:
İn case the Constitution Court admits the petition, it will allow a period of one month to the AKP to defend itself and the AKP reserves its right to seek to extend this period by another two months if it finds the initial period of one month insufficient. This will follow with oral arguments by the chief prosecutor and the lawyer for the AKP. Both the parties will present their oral and written arguments and documents to the court which will then study and scrutinise these for several months. The chief prosecutor will then present his non-binding report to the court containing his acceptance of the presentation and after all these, the court will then reach the stage of pronouncing its decision.
İt is expected that this procedure will stretch for a period of between one and two years to complete the legal formalities. İt may be mentioned that similar petitions against political parties in the past have run for about 7 - 8 months to 6 years; the one against the Welfare Party in 1998 ran for 7 months and the one against the Virtue Party in 2001 continued for 8 months. The petition against the Kurdish Rights and Liberation Party (HAKPAR) led by Abdul Malik Firat, the grandson of the late Shaikh Sa’eed Beeran (May Allah have mercy on him and bestow his jannah) ran between 2002 to 2008.
İt is also a probaility that the court may reject the petition or may accept the petition and passes a judgement other than closing down the AKP, like issuing a warning or stopping the state’s financial funding to the parties. The court may also pass penalising orders against individuals. All this is a possibility if the court is able to complete the legal procedures to its conclusion.
Secondly, from a political perspective:
The decision to petition the court for closure of the AKP reflects the ongoing tussle between the US and the British in Turkey and is very much in evidence politically in certain establishments. That this tussle has reached such proportions points to danger, to take this matter against the ruling AKP which enjoys popular support and threaten it with closure is a stern warning to it. To close down a political party is the last possible resort under from a legal point of view.
Studying the background preceeding the petition, it becomes clear that two important factors resulted in hurrying for submission of the petition, in other words two events enraged the pro British secularists:
First: The passing of the law allowing wearing of the Khimar and the presdential ratification, this has been cited in the petition submitted to the Constitution Court.
Second: The more important one, is that the Turkish armed forces were shaken in their cross border military operation and failed to acheive the desired results from it and had to contend with simple booty! The armed forces have realised that they could not pit the Turkish government against the US by going for a widespread war withe Kurd in the Northern Iraq, on the other hand the US and the Turkish government strangled the armed forces in a limited war on thier terms- in severe cold weather in a hostile, icy terrain. Thus the operation was limited in terms of time and region. The armed forces realise that this was a sort of stricture against the armed forces so that they do not exploit the security aspect in the Kurdish conflict and again embarrass the AKP government. Thus the armed forces failed to acheive the desired results, if they had tried to withdraw their troops fearing losses, that would have been a crisis for the pro British secularists, a severe crisis at that.
Thus this petition the Constitution Court is a reaction to their failure on these two events, on the other hand the petition is also tantamount to a warning to the AKP for its future course of action. However these two are not the only factors behind this petition, they simply contributed to hastening the process.
There are other factors that led to the rather hasty petition, among them, that the terms of office of a number of judges in the Consitution Court hostile to the Justice & Development Party is nearing its end, while on the other hand the US is preoccupied with its presedntial elections. Then there are other contributing factors as well.
İf the armed forces were in position to stage a coup, they would have certainly done so, it is preciely because they can not risk a coup at this juncture, that they have resorted to this legal course of action to issue a severe warning to the AKP.
The preliminary warnings issued to the leaders of the ruling AKP were quite stern, however the crucial factor that will determine the direction that the court takes will be the stiffness or the flexibility which the AKP adopts in its stance. İt is known that out of the eleven judges of the Constitution court who will take a final decision in the matter, 9 of them are hostile to the AKP, while the other two, one of whom is the ‘Chief Justice’ of the court, are not hostile. İt however does not necessarily mean that the case against the AKP is a foregone conclusion resulting in closure of the party and its leaders being prevented from participating in political activity.
But the statment of the United Stated were far more stern, Matt Perez, a high ranking official in the US State Department immedeately after the chief prosecutor raied the petition in the court, stated: “ We hope all the concerned parties will respect democracy and rule of law. This relects our support to the secular democracy of Turkey. İt is the voters in a democratic election who decide the political course of action in a country. They have given their verdict in 2007 and it is necessary to respect the will of the voters”. (Vide: The Anatolian Agency 15th March, 2008). This implies that America will not remain complacent with regard to the Justice & Development Party, the AKP of Erdogan and Gul. İt is discreet but firm statement from the US, because it regards this petition as a legal coup and will mobilise all its resources to prevent a judgement closing down its ally in Turkey. The US will work for failure of this move and in all probability will succeed.
İt is therefore more likely that the AKP will neither be banned nor its leaders be prevented from undertaking political activities, on the other hand considering the prevalent situation in which the writ petition was brought up, it becomes quite evident that this move implies more of a threat than the closure. This means that the pro British elements have warned the AKP in severe tone and the danger bells are tolling for it. İn other words, the pro British secular Kemalists aim to send a signal that they are prepared to exploit every means at their disposal to stand in the way of the AKP government.
İt is most likely that the AKP government will not take heed of these and continue to tread its path, though it will affect its pace. The United States and its allies in Turkey are determined to put a stop to the British base and are resolutely pursuing to establish liberal democracy in order to consolidate American influence in Turkey. Moreover, the AKP is aware that its popular support base will only be strengthened as a result of this legal petition and it will be reflected in the local body elections scheduled for next year where the AKP is expecting to garner over 50% votes. At the same time, the AKP will also harness this situation to weaken such state establishments which are still inclined towards the British and expose them to the people. The AKP however must pay attention to the fact that the armed forces will certainly have considered such a possibility and would have contigency palns to counter such an eventuality.
Whatever may be outcome of this legal battle, there is no doubt that this will engage the AKP government in a severe domestic crisis an as result of this, it will lose the required pace on many fronts most conspicously in its relations with the European Union, the economic crisis. In addition to this, the reforms program based on US support and financial assistance will be partially hindered.
10th Rabee’ ul Awwal, 1429 A.H
17th March, 2008 C.E