Venice Commission warns against one-person regime in Turkey

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The Council of Europe’s constitutional law experts, the Venice Commission, warn against a one-person regime in Turkey in a definitive, as-adopted, opinion on proposed constitutional amendments to be put to a referendum on April 16.

According to a statement released by Directorate of Communications of the Council of Europe, the Venice Commission warns that by removing necessary checks and balances, the amendments would not follow the model of a democratic presidential system based on the separation of powers and instead would risk degeneration into an authoritarian presidential system.

The commission expressed the following concerns about the proposed new system in Turkey:

– letting the new President exercise executive power alone, with unsupervised authority to appoint and dismiss ministers, and to appoint and dismiss all high officials on the basis of criteria determined by him or her alone;

– allowing the President to be a member and even the leader of his or her political party, that would give him or her undue influence over the legislature;

– giving the President the power to dissolve parliament on any grounds whatsoever, which is fundamentally alien to democratic presidential systems

– further weakening the already inadequate system of judicial oversight of the executive.

– further weakening the independence of the judiciary.

According the statement, which says full text of this opinion will be made available on Monday, the opinion, which had been requested by the Monitoring Committee of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), also raises serious procedural concerns.

Underlining that Turkey’s Parliament approved the amendments to be put to referendum when several deputies from the second largest opposition party were in jail, the opinion says: “The vote for approving the amendments was cast in breach of secret ballot, casting doubt on the genuine nature of support for reform and on the personal nature of the deputies’ vote.”

The commission also stated that the current state of emergency does not provide the proper democratic setting for a vote as important as a constitutional referendum.
“Every state has the right to choose its own political system, be it presidential or parliamentary or mixed, but this right is not unconditional,” the statement said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last week that Turkey would not recognize reports of the Venice Commission.

“We do not recognize your reports. We will not recognize them in the future, either, for your information,” said Erdoğan.

On Monday, Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ accused the Venice Commission of attempting to influence public opinion in Turkey with its report and encourage “no” votes in an upcoming referendum on constitutional reforms.

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