Monday, September 13, 2010

Turkish Voters Approve Constitutional Amendments

Turkish voters yesterday approved a series of constitutional amendments by a 58-42 margin, with 78% voter turnout.  The amendments, widely seen as a vote of confidence in Premier Erdogan, will help put the Turkish Constitution in line with requirements for EU membership. 


Among the notable changes:

  • Individual Rights: Equality, Protection, Privacy, Petition, Unions.  Article 10 now allows the government to take affirmative measures for children, the elderly, the disabled, widows, orphans of martyrs, and veterans without violating the equality provision.  Article 41 provides for rights of children to "adequate protection and care" and to maintain a relationship with parents.  It also requires the State to "take measures for the protection of the child against any kind of abuse and violence."  Article 20 provides for a right "to demand the protection of his or her personal information" and requires that "[p]rinciples and procedures on the protection of personal information shall be regulated by law."  Article 74 creates a new office of the Ombudsman, designed to accept citizen complaints.  A series of articles remove restrictions on union membership and right to strike.
  • Separation of Powers.  Article 125 creates judicial review of decisions of the Supreme Military Council for regular military discharges.  But it also adds language limiting jurisdiction over administrative matters: "Judicial power shall be limited to control of the lawfulness of administrative actions and shall under no circumstances be used as the control of expediency."  Article 129 removes exceptions to judicial review of disciplinary decisions against civil servants. 
  • Parliament.  Article 84 ends the compelled expulsion of members whose actions were cited by the courts as grounds to ban a political party. 
  • Constitutional Court.  Article 148 provides for the right to individual application to the Constitutional Court for fundamental rights in the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.  A series of articles increase the membership, change the method of election, and change its structure.
  • Judiciary.  Article 159 changes the composition of the Supreme Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors and charges the body with a wide array of oversight and regulation of the judiciary.  Under the amendments, the Council is comprised of 22 members, including 4 appointed by the President and others appointed by various other bodies.  Article 144 charges the Council with the supervision of judges and prosecutors, including inquiry and investigations concerning them. 
  • Military Jurisdiction.  Articles 145 and 156 limit military court jurisdiction to the trial of military offenses.  They specifically provide that offenses against state security, constitutional order, and state functioning shall be dealt with by courts of justice, and that civilians shall not be tried by military courts except in time of war.

The Turkish Embassy has a run-down of the changes here; Reuters has a summary here.  The BBC has a Q&A here and more on the politics here; Al Jazeera reports here.


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