Former ECtHR judge Türmen: Amendments will end democracy in Turkey

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Riza Türmen / AFP PHOTO/ADEM ALTAN

Former European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judge Rıza Türmen has said Turkish democracy will completely die if proposed constitutional changes that will officially bring an executive presidential system to Turkey are approved.

“If the all power is concentrated in one person, it will be either dictatorship or absolute monarchy,” said Türmen during an interview published in the Birgün daily on Sunday, underlining that the proposed constitutional amendments will pave the way for the concentration of judicial, legislative and executive power in the hands of one person.

“If these constitutional changes are approved, those who oppose them will be excluded from society. The oppressed — the Kurds, the Alevis, the secularists — and all who say ‘no’ to the new constitution will be alienated from the new political system, and it will end with the tyranny of the majority.”

Stating that the changes will end basic rights and freedoms and will also eliminate the basic role of the constitution, that is, to limit the power of the authorities, Türmen warned that it would cause further deterioration of the already existing ethnic and religious disintegration in Turkey.

Regarding the timing and methods of the amendments to the constitution, Türmen said: “A political party drafted changes to the constitution behind closed doors without talking to others. Moreover, it was done during a state of emergency, in other words, at a time when all protests and public gatherings were banned, when the media was under pressure and journalists were behind bars. Hence society will not know what’s going on.”

Türmen called for the mobilization of a public opposition instead of merely depending on the opposition in Parliament.

New system would even turn a democrat president into a dictator

The former president of Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals (Yargıtay), Professor Sami Selçuk, wrote in an op-ed in Cumhuriyet daily last week that the proposed constitutional amendment package clearly aims to concentrate power in the person of the president and eliminate the separation of powers.

“In such a system, even a president who has democratic awareness, has to be a dictator, oppression, in other words,  has to rule society with a totalitarian regime.”

Veteran jurist Selçuk said the proposed changes are even worse than the already antidemocratic 1982 Constitution, which was drafted under a military junta.

According to Selçuk, anyone who is literate can easily understand that the constitutional amendment would entrust all power to the president, close off the path to checks and balances and bring a concentration of powers in one person.

Selçuk said the amendments would enslave those who defend it and make them regret the day they were born.

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