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Turkey: Controversial Amendments to Constitution Proposed by Ruling Party

(Mar. 29, 2010) Hasan Gerceker, the President of Turkey's Supreme Court, stated in an interview on March 22, 2010, that proposed amendments to the country's Constitution – made public the same day – threaten the separation of powers and judicial independence. Despite the government's claim that the proposed revisions comply with European Union standards, Gerceker was quoted as saying, “that does not mean they should be blindly applied in Turkey.” (Sarah Paulsworth, Top Turkish Judge: Proposed Constitutional Amendments Threaten Judicial Independence, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST, Mar. 23, 2010, available at
.) The reforms have also been challenged by the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). (Id.)

The major aims of the set of 26 proposed changes advanced by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which affect 23 articles and three interim articles of the Constitution, are reportedly to enhance democracy and strengthen Turkey's bid to join the EU. Among the controversial proposals are those on:

court reform – most notably, a complete restructuring of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors and the possibility that its members could be freely investigated for wrongdoing; expansion of the 11-member Constitutional Court to 19 members; limitation of the judicial power of the Constitutional Court and the Council of State to administrative practices and functions, disallowing of any ruling process in the 'public interest' or of a “check for 'correctness' in cases that are opened”; and introduciton of the possibility of appeal against Constitutional Court decisions. (Proposed Changes to Turkey's Constitution, HÜRRIYET DAILY NEWS & ECONOMIC REVIEW, Mar. 23, 2010, available at

party closure – made more difficult by the establishment of a party closure commission to examine party closure cases; by removal of ministerial decisions on religious high schools or the headscarf ban as a reason for party closure; by mandating that a majority vote of the Constitutional Court's 19 members would be required for dissolving a party on grounds such as posing a threat to the state and nation or to human rights; and by stipulating that parliamentary debate and discussion is not a reason for party closure.

removal of the ban on prosecution of the 1980 coup leaders contained in the 15th interim article of the Constitution. (Id.)

Other proposed amendments concern protection of the rights of women, children, the elderly, and the disabled; the right of civil servants to collective bargaining; privacy protection; relaxation of bans on travel abroad, so that restrictions would apply only to those involved in a criminal investigation or case; protection against child abuse; and the establishment of an ombudsman to ensure the right of all to obtain information. (Id.; Text of proposed amendments [in Turkish], AKP website, [via Paulsworth, supra] (last visited Mar. 24, 2010).)

Earlier in March, Prime Minister Recep Tayyp Erdogan announced that the package of reforms would be submitted to the EU by the end of the month. (Carrie Schimizzi, Turkish Government Unveils Proposed Constitutional Amendments, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST, Mar. 22, 2010, available at

In the meantime, the bill will be put before Parliament, two-thirds of whose 550 members must approve the package in order for it to become law. (Paulsworth, supra.) The proposals also provide for a referendum process; if a referendum is held, the package would be voted on as a whole for approval or rejection. (Turkish Government Unveils Controversial Constitutional Package, HÜRRIYET DAILY NEWS & ECONOMIC REVIEW, Mar. 22, 2010, available at
; see also The Constitution of the Republic of Turkey [in English], Office of the Prime Minister website, (last visited Mar. 24, 2010).)