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April 22, 2011, Friday

Sabotaging stability

When military coups began to be prevented in recent years due to legal action being taken against alleged coup plotters, who are now facing trial, deep state elements increasingly resorted to the problematic Turkish legal system in an attempt to cover up their illegal activities.

In an undemocratic move, the legal system, despite some reforms, still maintain provisions that protect the state against its citizens. As we Turks began to discuss formerly taboo issues, such as the military’s heavy involvement in politics and the problems that exist within the legal system, we also witnessed how the dust had for decades been swept under the rug and how illegal acts, such as coups, extrajudicial killings and torture, had been covered up under the name of the law. These nasty activities, we observed, were covered up by the deep state-dictated legal system. The perpetrators of these crimes hid behind the bizarre legal system to avoid prosecution and to justify their illegal acts.

But things have been changing over the past 10 years as Turkey has become more democratized and is able to discuss and challenge the devastating effect of the deep state’s illegal activities concerning society.

The country is still run by a military-dictated Constitution dating from 1982 -- making it almost 30 years old. Many reforms, however, have taken place in the past several years that have seen amendments to the Constitution as well as to the law in an attempt to bring them up to democratic standards. But because a brand new civilian and democratic constitution has not yet been introduced, defects occur very often in the system. As a result, some legal decisions trigger instability instead of tranquility. And the public conscience is very often injured. One very recent example of a defect in the legal system is a decision made by the Supreme Election Board (YSK), which barred a number of independent candidates supported by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) from competing in the June 12 general elections.

Because of a 10 percent threshold for parties to enter Parliament, the BDP supports independent candidates instead of entering into the elections as a party. The government refuses to reduce the threshold over concerns that the entry of many parties into Parliament would lead to coalitions, which had proven to be a cause of instability in the decade before the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power, in November 2002. However, this argument should be challenged because Turkey has matured enough to overcome weaknesses that may occur as a result of coalition governments.

The YSK, which has completed its assessment of the lists of candidate running for the post of deputy, on Monday barred 12 independent candidates from running, citing the applicants’ previous criminal records, connected mostly to counterterrorism laws. The board stated that the candidates are ineligible to be elected as deputies due to their previous convictions.

This decision not only triggered massive and violent protests in the predominantly Kurdish and war-stricken southeastern Turkey, it also caused a political reaction as well as outrage among the public.

The assessment in general was that the board’s decision was political rather than legal. Those who used legal arguments to back the YSK decision cited existent anachronistic laws and existing defects within the Constitution. In fact, Parliament should bear the prime responsibility for the YSK’s highly controversial decision because it is the legislative body’s duty to introduce legal measures that comply with 21st century standards.

Nevertheless, feeling the heat of a harsh reaction to its decision, the YSK on Tuesday, a day after its decision to bar the 12 independent candidates from running, made a 360-degree U-turn and stated that it would re-examine the cases of all the independents. As a result, the majority of the candidates appeared eligible to become candidates as the YSK met yesterday to make its final decision as this column went to print.

Whatever the YSK’s final verdict, the question mark over the rationale behind the YSK’s decision remains as it has become a source of instability while leading to massive protests in predominantly Kurdish regions, resulting in the death of one person. If the YSK’s earlier decision to bar some candidates from entering the elections was based on legal provisions, why has it had to step back from its earlier verdict instead of sticking to its previous decision? The simple answer is that, whether consciously or unconsciously, the YSK reflected a deep state reflex to cause a chaotic atmosphere to overshadow elections and thus prevent the ruling AK Party from most probably winning the June 12 elections for the third time. It has been under AK Party rule that illegal elements within the deep state have begun to feel the heat.

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