Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mass Protects Continue in Response to YSK Decision

President Gul called today for Turkey's Supreme Election Board (YSK) to solve problems surrounding the candidacy of 12 BDP members the BDP put forward earlier this month. The YSK barred these candidates from running on Monday, sparking protests across the country that are still ongoing and have resulted in at least one death. The YSK, under tremendous pressure, is set to meet tomorrow to review its decision.

On Monday, the YSK set a deadline of Wednesday for the candidates to submit proper documentation that they had resolved outstanding issues related to prior convictions. The YSK lifted the barring of some BDP candidates, including Sebahat Tuncel, Gültan Kışanak, Leyla Zana, Ertuğrul Kürkçü and Hatip Dicle, after candidates submitted proper documentation.

The YSK is backing down on its decision and most surely looking for an exit strategy despite earlier declarations it would stand by its decision. That said, some candidates have yet to be reinstated and so the issue is still up in the air as to whether the BDP will actually go through with its threat to boycott the June elections.

The YSK decision has also raised discussed of the 10% threshold currently in place for Turkish parties to represent parliament. If the BDP candidates had been running a full-fledged party members rather than independent candidates, they would not have been subject to the YSK's scrutiny.

More as it happens . . .

UPDATE I (4/22) -- The YSK has reversed its decision (from Radikal, in Turkish).

UPDATE II (4/24) -- Aengus Collins reflects on the YSK debacle and "the rules of the game." An excerpt:
As soon as the YSK barred the Kurdish candidates, the game was lost. There were better and worse ways of trying to recover the situation, but none that would prevent a bright light being shone on serious problems. Had the YSK dug its heels in and insisted that the rules gave it no choice but to exclude the candidates from June’s election, Turkey’s outrageous infringements of the political rights of its Kurdish voters and politicians would have been advertised more glaringly than is usually the case.

Far preferable, then, for the YSK to have reversed its decision relatively swiftly? Well, yes, up to a point. The decision’s reversal is to be welcomed. But look at what it says about the robustness of the system that underpins Turkey’s electoral mechanics. On Monday, the rules were interpreted to mean that these individuals had forfeited the right to stand for election. This was the conclusion of a state body the decisions of which are not subject to appeal. And yet on Thursday the same body performed a neat little pirouette to arrive at more or less the opposite of its position on Monday.

What does this tell us about the integrity of the rules? It tells us that what matters in Turkey is not the formal construction of the rules, but the spirit in which they’re interpreted and implemented at any given time. This is not a phenomenon peculiar to Turkey, and it is not a phenomenon that necessarily yields negative results. But at a time when Turkey is considering a wholesale revision of its constitution and when the gap between lofty democratic rhetoric and grubby coalface politics is wider than ever, it warrants some attention.

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