Following the AK Party losing its majority in Turkey’s parliament in June elections, the country’s courts have dealt it a series of legal blows. The rulings are seen as a sign the judiciary is seeking to re-establish its independence.
Turkey’s highest court this week overruled President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s closure of private schools, a key part of his AK Party’s battle against rival Islamic cleric Fetullah Gulen, whose followers own many of the schools.
While many legal experts questioned the validity of the ban, few expected the Constitutional Court to challenge it, according to columnist Semih Idiz of Turkey’s Cumhurriyet newspaper and Al Monitor website.
“It is incredibly significant one could not of imagined such a decision would of come out, prior to the June 7 elections. It is clear that the judiciary probably feels more confident arriving than it should in the neutral environment,” he said.
Last month’s general election resulted in the AK Party losing its parliamentary majority and ended its 13 years of one party rule. During that time the party has been accused of increasingly taking control of the judiciary, through legal reforms and intimidation.
This month, the former head of the country’s appeals court, Ali Alkan, declared “the independence of the judiciary had been suspended.”
But law professor Istar Gozaydin said there were now signs the wider judiciary was re-establishing its independence.
“It is not only the constitutional court, but other courts as well that have been giving quite a many similar decisions. It is very positive in terms of separation of powers because, before the elections, it was very much under the control of the executive. It shows the sands are shifting,” said Gozaydin.
Under AK Party rule in the past year, hundreds of judges and prosecutors were suspended or removed from office. Many of those were investigating high level government graft.
Professor Gozaydin said the newly found judicial independence could see the re-opening of the corruption probes into the AK Party and family members of the president.
“It [the AK Party] should be very much concerned because of the alleged corruption, all of the accusations actually may be raised,” she said.
All potential coalition partners of the AK Party are insisting the corruption probes be re-opened. Observers say the judiciary may be now only too willing to oblige.
(Photo: an AK Party rally in Istanbul, May 2015: AKP)