Thursday, July 31, 2008

Turkey's Ruling Party Avoids Dissolution For Anti-Secular Activities In Close Court Decision

Media around the world, including the New York Times and London's Guardian, are reporting on Wednesday's decision by Turkey's Constitutional Court that stopped short of ordering dissolution of the ruling AK (Justice and Development) Party that had been charged with "becoming a focal point of anti-secular activity." (See prior posting.) Instead the court voted to cut the public funding of the AK Party in half, and to issue a "serious warning" to it about its moves-- particularly attempts to permit women to wear the hijab on university campuses-- which are seen as undermining the secular principles on which the country was founded. Tuesday's Wall Street Journal carried a backgrounder on the secular roots created by the country's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The AKP's loss of state funding is expected to be made up by private contributions from supporters.

Today's Zaman gives more detailed information on Wednesday's court decision, and a backgrounder on the closure of political parties in Turkey. At the center of the decision are provisions in Articles 68 and 69 of Turkey's Constitution:

68(4)... The ... activities of political parties shall not be in conflict with the independence of the state, its indivisible integrity..., human rights, the principles of equality and rule of law, sovereignty of the nation, the principles of the democratic and secular republic...

69(7) The decision to dissolve a political party permanently owing to activities violating the provisions of the fourth paragraph of Article 68 may be rendered only when the Constitutional Court determines that the party in question has become a centre for the execution of such activities....

(8) Instead of dissolving them permanently in accordance with the above-mentioned paragraphs, the Constitutional Court may rule the concerned party to be deprived of State aid wholly or in part with respect to intensity of the actions brought before the court.

In Wednesday's decision, 6 of the court's 11 judges voted to dissolve the party, one vote short of the 7 needed for dissolution. Four other judges voted to cut the AKP's state funding. Only Chief Justice Haşim Kılıç voted against imposing any sanctions. In announcing the Court's decision, the Chief Justice urged politicians to amend Turkish law to make it more difficult to bring cases seeking closure of political parties in order to avoid the kind of political crisis that this case has generated.