Turkey's AKP mulls formulas to avoid closure as world reacts

Hurriyet English
01 Nisan 2008 - 11:29Son Güncelleme : 01 Nisan 2008 - 21:48

Turkey's ruling party AKP has reportedly stepped up efforts to find a formula to avoid any closure ruling that the Constitutional Court could make as the EU and U.S. strongly criticized the lawsuit on Tuesday. The European Comission is expected to discuss the issue in its meeting on Wednesday. Vatan daily reported AKP plans to take the constitutional amendment package to referandum in June. AKP said the details of the package will be announced after party board meeting on Monday. (UPDATED)

Turkey's chief prosecutor, Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, filed a lawsuit against the ruling AKP on March 14 demanding its closure and the banning of 71 party officials , including Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, from politics. The lawsuit raised political tensions, creating concerns of prolonged uncertainty and blows to the financial markets.       

The AKP announced last week that it is working on a constitutional amendment making it more difficult to ban political parties, drawing criticism that it is seeking to circumvent the system's safety mechanisms.    

The Deputy Chairman of AKP said on Tuesday their priority will be to protect economic and political stability. "The technical details of the (process) will be determined in next week Monday's party board meeting," Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat told reporters after the AKP's Central Executive Board meeting.

Vatan daily reported on Tuesday AKP will decide whether the amendment package will be a small one or a democratization package, Vatan said. In the mini package, which plans to make it harder to close political parties, the article of a five-year political ban is removed and makes it compulsory to gain the approval of the parliament to file a closure case. 

The package also plans to change the focal point of the definition of activities seen as anti-secular and include an additional condition relating to supporting terror and violence for the closure of political parties. In addition, a court verdict would be required for the crimes of individual party members. The package also plans to close the current cases before the court when the amendment is applied, according to Vatan.

In line with the Constitution, a referendum will be called if the AKP fails to gain between 330 and 367 votes, which are required for the package to be passed. The AKP is planning to take the package to a referendum in June and is expected to make the planned amendments to the Constitution by mid-April, reducing the duration of time from decision to referendum from 120 to 45 days, Vatan reported.

According to media reports, AKP is expected to try to gain the backing of opposition parties, except the secular Republican People's Party (CHP). The AKP needs the support of at least one other party to avoid a referendum on the amendment package.  

Observers warn that a referendum would only heighten tensions further and likely turn the turmoil into a crisis.

The Constitutional Court decided on Monday to accept the case filed by the country's top prosecutor. In the next stage, according to legal procedure, the AKP will begin its preliminary defense, which will be sent to the Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Prosecutor's Office.          

INTERNATIONAL REACTION

After the chief prosecutor states his views on the merits of the case, the AKP will offer a verbal defense in a month's time. This will be followed by verbal statements of the chief prosecutor in response. The case could take up to a year.

The court's decision to accept the case drew international criticism. European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn voiced renewed concerns on Monday following th court's decision.

Rehn said he would report to the European Commission on the case on Wednesday, saying it showed a "systemic error" in the Turkey's constitutional framework.   

"The prohibition or dissolution of political parties is a far-reaching measure which should be used with the utmost restraint," Rehn said in a statement, adding: "I do not see any such justification for this case."

In Washington, the U.S. Department of State said that it hopes those involved in the closure case filed against Turkey's ruling AKP would proceed in a way that was apolitical.

"What we would expect and hope from this process is that those involved proceed in a way that was apolitical and that reflected the commitment to representative democracy that's been expressed by the Turkish voters in recent elections," spokesman Tom Casey said in a daily press briefing on Monday.

"We attach great importance to the democratic values and the secular principles that Turkey is committed to and that's the basis of our relationship and to the alliance," he was quoted as saying by the Anatolian Agency.

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