politics : culture : economics

Archive for the ‘Constitution’ Category

Gauging the likely impact of Sunday’s election in Turkey

In 2011 general election, Constitution, Kurdish question, Party politics on June 10, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Ahead of Turkey’s parliamentary elections on Sunday, Yigal Schleifer, who maintains the must-read Istanbul Calling blog, is making a guest appearance here to answer a number of my questions about the likely impact of the poll. In return, you’ll find my responses to a series of Yigal’s questions over on Istanbul Calling. Read the rest of this entry »


What the YSK debacle tells us about democratic reform in Turkey

In 2011 general election, A new constitution, Constitution, Democratisation, Kurdish question, Women in Turkey on April 23, 2011 at 2:44 pm

For the past week, Turkey has been convulsed by the decision of the country’s electoral board (YSK) to prohibit a group of Kurdish independent candidates from participating in June’s general election. The YSK’s ruling prompted a political crisis as well as angry protests in which one young Read the rest of this entry »

Turkey’s general election: countdown to a fait accompli

In 2011 general election, Constitution, Democratisation, Party politics, Turkey on April 19, 2011 at 2:28 pm

On June 12 Turkey’s electorate will go to the polls in the country’s 17th general election. In each of the last two elections, in 2002 and 2007, the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) has emerged as a comfortable winner. It is all but certain to do so again this year. There are risks to this forecast, but they have Read the rest of this entry »

Turkey’s opaque system of political financing

In Constitution, Democratisation, Electoral system, Turkey on December 20, 2010 at 2:23 am

In my most recent post I highlighted the seeming over-reliance of Turkey’s political parties on state funding. But what of the role of private funding in Turkish politics? When we think about the corruption of the political process, it is usually Read the rest of this entry »

State funding for Turkey’s political parties

In Constitution, Democratisation, Electoral system, Turkey on December 16, 2010 at 4:18 pm

This is the first of two posts on political financing in Turkey. In the second, I’ll look at a range of problems relating to the way in which private donations are regulated. First, however, I want to outline the workings of the system that provides (some) Turkish parties with significant sums of public money.

According to Article 69 of Turkey’s constitution, “the state shall provide the political parties with adequate financial means in an equitable manner.” (“Siyasi partilere, Devlet, yeterli düzeyde ve hakça mali yardım yapar.”) The key piece of legislation that fleshes out this principle is the Law on Political Parties (2820), which, unfortunately, compounds democratic deficiencies Read the rest of this entry »

Lost in translation: the legal marriage age in Turkey

In Constitution, Legal system, Women in Turkey on December 1, 2010 at 2:57 pm

It’s the kind of thing that one would have thought needs to be more or less entirely devoid of ambiguity. But the Turkish language does its users no favours when it comes to setting down in law the age at which various actions become permissible.

The immediate context here is a bit of background reading I have been doing on changes to the legal age for marriage in Turkey. What is clear is that revisions to the Civil Code, approved in late 2001, raised the marriage age and standardised it for both men and women. What is less clear, to me at any rate, is what the age restriction now is.

This is largely down to the peculiarly figurative turn of phrase Read the rest of this entry »

Turkey’s judiciary: how much sense does the European Commission make?

In Constitution, Democratisation, European Union, Judiciary on November 16, 2010 at 5:02 pm

There were few surprises in the European Commission’s 2010 progress report for Turkey, which was published on November 9th. On the issue that has most divided Turkey over the past year—the effect of September’s constitutional reforms on the judiciary—the Commission’s report formalises the cautiously optimistic line that many international observers have taken. First, it welcomes the reforms as “a step in the right direction.” Second, it qualifies that welcome by noting that the “implementation of the amended constitutional provisions through legislation, in line with European standards, is key.”

I have a few reservations about this formula. For one thing, I think that the phrase “through legislation” could usefully be removed from the second quote in the paragraph above. Yes, legislative change is an integral part of any Read the rest of this entry »

Eight ways to assess the quality of Turkish democracy

In Constitution, Democratisation, Electoral system, Kurdish question, Media, Society, Turkey, Uncategorized, Women in Turkey on November 1, 2010 at 8:29 am

What makes for a high-quality democracy? If we could answer this question satisfactorily, we would be well placed to deal systematically with some of the perennial questions of Turkish politics (what are the country’s democratic shortcomings? which reforms should it prioritise?), and to assess the various proposals for constitutional reform that will be forthcoming in the months and years ahead. Fortunately for us, there’s a growing amount of work being done in this area.

In 2003, Larry Diamond and Leonardo Morlino brought together a group of democratisation experts for a research project on the quality of democracy. The project’s aim was to identify the characteristics that distinguish high-quality from low-quality democracies. In the book that resulted from their project, Assessing the Quality of Democracy, Diamond and Morlino identify eight different dimensions on which democracies vary in quality. In this post, I’ll provide an outline Read the rest of this entry »

Free and consensual constitution-making

In Constitution, Turkey on September 30, 2010 at 2:01 am

The moves towards drafting a new Turkish constitution gather pace. Attention shifted today to the likely timeframe, with reports suggesting that both president Abdullah Gül and opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu believe a new constitution could be framed before the next general election, due in summer 2011.

This seems unduly hasty. More to the point, it puts cart before horse. What’s needed first isn’t a timetable, but discussion of and a decision on the mechanics of constitution-making that ought to be used. As things stand, it looks like we’re drifting unthinkingly into a joint commission comprising members of the parties currently represented in parliament.

Is that the best way of going about this exercise? Well, it would be an improvement on the manner in which the recently passed constitutional amendments were drafted. But it would fall well short of the democratic spectrum’s end-point: a constituent assembly elected (by universal suffrage, on a proportional basis and without distortions like the 10 per cent threshold) for the specific purpose of drafting a new constitution. (Andrew Read the rest of this entry »

Parliaments, presidents and the endurance of Turkey’s democracy

In Constitution, Democratisation, Turkey on September 15, 2010 at 10:16 pm

The rumblings about Turkey potentially moving from its current broadly parliamentary system of governance to a more purely presidential one deserve closer attention than I currently have time to give them. But the effects of different institutional arrangements on the democratisation process have been well researched and I’d like to share this summary from an article entitled ‘What Makes Democracies Endure’, which was contributed to the Journal of Democracy by Adam Przeworksi and others in 1996:

“If a country, any randomly selected country, is to have a democratic regime next year, what conditions should be present in that country and around the world this year? The answer is: democracy, affluence, growth with moderate inflation, declining inequality, a favourable international climate, and parliamentary institutions.”

The authors go on to spend ten pages or so unfolding each of these criteria. But they’re quite definitive on the parliamentary point: “The evidence that parliamentary democracy survives longer Read the rest of this entry »