Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Closure A Foregone Conclusion

AKP filed its defense statement today and ahead of its deadline to do so. The action indicates that the party is adopting a strategy that treats its closure as a foregone conclusion. Arguing publicly that party officials do not want to drag the country through the political and economic turmoil of a hard-fought closure case, privately the party is planning for the creation of a new party. The party is unlikely to differ much from AKP save for a potential change in leadership. The real question starting to be paid attention to is just which AKP politicians are going to face five-year political bans and exactly how the party is preparing to organize new leadership. Erdoğan is, of course, "the big fish" to be caught and his ban is almost certain. However, more a matter of debate is just how and to what degree he will exercise power behind the scenes. Legal analysts have said that it is perfectly legal for the prime minister to seek elected office as an independent candidate since the political ban only applies to politicians who are members of political parties. However, just what the Constitutional Court and the Higher Election Board decide is subject to speculation, especially as a local election board prevented former RP prime minister Necmettin Erbakan from running in elections as an independent in 2002. Also of interest is discussion of center-right challengers to Erdoğan from both within and outside of AKP.

If AKP is banned, how exactly will events unfold? This question is difficult to answer and due to the variety of contingencies still very much being sorted out, Erdoğan has kept parliament working throughout the summer so as to keep deputies close at hand and parliament poised to initiate early elections should they be deemed necessary. Whether elections will come in the form of provisional elections (depending on the number of deputies the court bans in both the AKP and DTP closure cases) or early elections is also still very much subject to speculation. The prospect of early elections might fall on the same date as municipal elections, currently scheduled for March 29, and the ultimate decision rests with the Higher Election Board. In the event of a shutdown, AKP's preference is for the earliest elections possible.

The 98-page defense statement was itself quite simple and focused mainly on the very political nature of the case. Provocatively, the statement also declared that has confused the issue of secularism and that the Turkish model is out of date with a "universal understanding" of the concept. Rather than defining secularism as a "lifestyle," as the prosecutor has done, the statement argued that secularism should be understood as a separation of church and state. While such a model of secularism follows the American model, the Turkish model is much more similar to that practiced in France, a model that denies religion from having any influence in public affairs whatsoever (see April 13 post). Criticism was also made of Yalçınkaya's sloppy indictment (the Chief Prosecutor's love of Google) and fell along the same lines as the critique of the indictment submitted to the Court in AKP's preliminary defense statement. From the statement:

"All data in this case against us have been interpreted by the Chief Prosecutor’s Office at the expense of freedoms. However, the fundamental principle of universal human rights law is ‘interpretation in favor of freedoms.’ Let alone interpreting data in the favor of evidence, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office has literally used the method of ‘divination’ in assessing the AK Party’s alleged goals and has shown things not likely to happen as likely.”

As the Court's decision in regard to the türban amendments evidences, such a defense is not likely to be well-received. The Court's decision in the case could come as early as July, and rest assured, AKP will be prepared for the verdict.

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