Turkish President Abdullah Gul signed into effect a new bill giving the government greater control over the judiciary on Wednesday. Gul said he had asked for 15 anti-constitutional points in the bill to be corrected, before final approval. The main opposition Republican People’s Party says it will renew it’s application to make the new law void.
Critics say it weakens judicial independence. Protests in Ankara and Istanbul have already broken out over government corruption. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is embroiled in a scandal in which alleged tape recordings reveal him asking his son to dispose of vast amounts of illegal cash. Gul has already overseen the approval of a law tightening up control of the internet. Critics claim this is a crackdown on freedom of speech and dissent and a knee-jerk response to the ongoing corruption probe.
The government has asked its legal arm, the Council of State, whether it can issue a new royal decree to organise polls in the 28 constituencies where there was no registered candidate to vote for during the Feb 2 election. Pongthep Thepkanchana, caretaker deputy prime minister, said yesterday the Election Commission (EC) proposed that the government should issue another royal decree for polling in the 28 constituencies in the South
However, as there are many legal questions on the matter, the government asked the Council of State to consider the proposal of the EC carefully and present its opinions, he said.Mr Pongthep said issuing another royal decree might violate Section 108 of the constitution, which stipulates that a general election must happen nationwide on the same date. Initial discussions with the Council of State found that issuing an additional royal decree might pose legal problems, he said. Caretaker Prime Minister’s Office Minister Varathep Rattanakorn said yesterday the government had not rejected any proposal that the EC came up with. The government has also not decided whether it should ask the Constitution Court to rule on the matter, as the EC has suggested, because it wants to listen to opinions from the Council of State first, he said. Meanwhile, Democrat Wirat Kalayasiri said yesterday he would repeat his request for the Constitution Court to nullify the Feb 2 election and he has a number of new reasons to back his case. Mr Wirat said the Constitution Court dismissed his request for the nullification of the Feb 2 election because it did not think the election violated Section 68 of the constitution. The section prohibits attempts to overthrow the monarchy and unconstitutional efforts to seize power.
Mr Wirat complained the Feb 2 election was unfair as it would not happen nationwide on the same date. According to Mr Wirat, the Feb 2 election violated many other laws. For example, advance voting did not happen, so about 2 million eligible voters could not exercise their right to vote. He also suggested the EC ask the Constitution Court to rule on the validity of the election, in addition to its plan to seek the court’s opinion on the possibility of issuing another royal decree for an election in the 28 southern constituencies. Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn yesterday said that if the caretaker government rejects the EC’s request that it issue a new royal decree for the election, as many believe it will, the EC would petition the Constitution Court to rule on the matter.