Saturday, December 12, 2009

11 December 2009: Turkey's Constitutional Court bans the pro-Kurdish Demokratik Toplum Partisi

Following a lawsuit filed by Chief Public Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya on November 16, 2007, the Turkish Constitutional Court has decided yesterday to shut down the Demokratik Toplum Partisi (Democratic Society Party) due to the party’s alleged links with the  PKK. Following 9-hour deliberations on the fourth day of the case, Constitutional Court President Haşim Kılıç said that its members voted unanimously to close down the DTP as it became a focal point of acts against the indivisible integrity of the state.

The result of this controversial decision is that, yet again, voices advocating human rights protection for Turkish Kurds are stifled, and the largest pro-Kurdish political force that had made considerable inroads in the Turkish political system by wining in nine provinces in the 2009 local elections is now seriously impaired. Thirty seven DTP members, including DTP Chairman Ahmet Türk and MP Aysel Tuğluk were banned from politics for five years. The rump parliamentary group that survived the sweeping effects of this decision has now been stripped of its parliamentary group rights. Already the news is being received with apprehension in Turkey’s Southeastern, largely Kurdish-populated provinces. On occasion, apprehension has given way to violent expressions of frustration as sporadic news from the Hakkari province indicate.

As it has been pointed out by several commentators the ban on the DTP is certain to undermine confidence in the democratic process and the government's current reform initiative. Turkey’s Prime Minister himself warned that a decision to effectively exclude Kurdish politicians from the country’s parliament could "push them toward illegal action" and bring them closer to PKK. The fact is that the voices that have emerged from the DTP have been marked by moderation. The leader of the banned party said that Turkey could not resolve problems by banning political parties and added that problems would be resolved through dialogue and logic. However he also warned that the obstruction of democratic politics will deepen a sense of hopelessness and voicelessness for many of Turkey's citizens.

Clearly, the Political Parties Law (Law No. 2820/1983), which was used in the case against the DTP as well the earlier attempt of the prosecutors to close down the governing AKP, proves to be a major inhibitor to the development of a genuinely democratic political system. Not only is it a deeply undemocratic instrument that treats the Turkish electorate with suspicion but also it constitutes a distorting and destabilizing factor in Turkish politics. It is a ‘legal’ means of bringing about changes that in the past were the product of the mobilization of the tanks in military coups or ultimata. In the longer term, it hinders the process of integration of political forces and the diverse views they bring into the political system.

The question is ‘for how long will Turkey’s judicial, military and bureaucratic establishment be able to promote its modernization with restricted democratization model as the way forward of an immensely diverse and polyphonic society?'

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