Friday, March 21, 2008

A Blessing in Disguise?: Promises for Human Rights, New Constitution

Following an emergency parliamentary meeting to discuss the closure case, AKP has been announcing over the past few days that it will pursue constitutional reforms with greater intensity in the coming months. The party was much criticized for postponing these reforms following its watershed agreement with MHP to move to lift the headscarf ban.

Now facing closure, the priority of constitutional reform will inevitably be to overhaul the processes by which parties may legally be closed. Critics have said that this is a self-interested effort on AKP's part and that it bears little evidence of a sincere commitment to pursue major democratic reform. Whether this criticism is justified, it is really beside the point. The fact of the matter is that there is now a significant catalyst in place that has the potential to bring parliamentarians to seriously attend to reforms that have long been demanded by human rights activists. Major human rights protections rarely take place in a vacuum and the constitutional reforms AKP is now all the more serious about seeking would indubitably be a boon to the human rights project.

Principal among such reforms would hopefully be a major overhaul of the judicial system that would hopefully take place with the advice and assistance of the European Union. This should be read as a political benefit for Turkey in and of itself, but would, of course, also have the major impact of making Turkey a much more serious contender for eventual EU membership.

As to party closures, an informative article appeared in Today's Zaman comparing Turkey to other countries in terms of laws pertaining to party closures. Hopefully the comparative value of the information contained in the article will put into perspective counter-arguments for reform that contend Turkey is no different than other EU countries who also have provisions allowing for party closure.

Below is a link to an article from the March 18 edition of Today's Zaman discussing prospects for constitutional reform.

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