“As soon as the referendum process begins, the authority of the bodies that can only review constitutional changes for annulment on procedural grounds ends. The Constitutional Court cannot launch a process that controls the nation’s will,” İyimaya told Today’s Zaman. Stressing that Parliament makes constitutional changes on behalf of the nation, he said he hopes the top court will not attempt to review the essence of the changes. İyimaya underlines that Parliament, the president and the Constitutional Court can no longer be a part of the process as soon as the changes are referred to the nation, since the changes are being referred to those who have authority over Parliament with the referendum.
The AK Party cannot currently amend the Constitution by itself, as it only has 337 seats in Parliament. According to the Constitution, constitutional changes that are voted for by more than 330 but less than 367 deputies should be taken to a public vote. The AK Party is determined to take the package to a public vote if it fails to get it approved by Parliament; however, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) plans to apply to the Constitutional Court for the annulment of the 29-article reform package.
İyimaya also termed the annulment of a constitutional amendment on the lifting of the headscarf ban in 2008 a violation of the Constitution. On June 5, 2008, the Constitutional Court cancelled amendments to Articles 10 and 42 of the Constitution that lifted the ban on headscarves at universities. The amendments, which had been passed with the support of 411 deputies in Parliament, were determined by the court to indirectly violate the first three articles of the Constitution -- which are unchangeable and to which amendments cannot be proposed -- and were therefore cancelled.
İyimaya also said a proposal included in the government’s constitutional amendment package that seeks to have parliamentary approval of party closure cases was not against the principle of separation of powers and, on the contrary, strengthens this principle. “World democracies long ago left behind our party closure model. The fact that 25 parties have been shut down in Turkey is not acceptable. Turkey should have already gotten rid of this model, but it did not,” he said. Recalling that the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission finds authorizing a sole body, the Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, to shut down a party wrong, İyimaya says the new proposal will, in fact, strengthen the principle of separation of powers.