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165 presidential decrees, laws challenged at Turkey’s top court in last 3 years

Turkey’s opposition has challenged 165 presidential decrees and laws passed by parliament at the Constitutional Court since 2018, when the country effectively switched from a parliamentary system to a presidential system of governance that granted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vast powers, the Birgün daily reported on Tuesday.

Most of the legislation that was taken to Turkey’s top court by the opposition parties for cancellation due to its alleged unconstitutionality was jointly drafted and passed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which together have a majority in parliament.

According to statistics recently announced by the Constitutional Court, 23 of the 165 annulment and contention of unconstitutionality files brought before it by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) resulted in the annulment of the challenged decrees and laws in 2019 and 2020, Birgün said.

In its reasoned decisions to annul the 23 decrees and laws, the top court underlined that the authority exercised by Erdoğan, who has been receiving growing criticism for resorting to presidential decrees as a means of bypassing parliament, has no legal basis, describing the decrees and laws as “arbitrary” and “unlawful.”

One of the annulment decisions came in December 2020, when the top court ruled, after the submission of a complaint by the CHP, that Erdoğan’s move to put the Anadolu news agency — a private company funded by the state –- under the direct control of the Communications Directorate of the Turkish Presidency via a presidential decree dated April 2019 contravened the constitution.

In its reasoned decision last month, the court underlined that such direct control by Erdoğan, who has long been accused of turning Anadolu into a government mouthpiece, of the news agency undermined the institutional independence of its organization and human resources and might harm the objectivity of its publications.

Presidential decrees were introduced in Turkey in the aftermath of a bloody coup in 1980. The coup’s leader, Kenan Evren, who served as president between 1980 and 1989, issued only one presidential decree during his time in office, while Erdoğan has issued 71 since assuming the top state office for a second time in 2018.

During the 27th legislative term, which began in July 2018, the Turkish Parliament approved bills that included 2,110 articles, while Erdoğan has issued decrees comprising 2,311 articles in the same period.

Erdoğan has long been accused by many of creating a one-man rule in Turkey, silencing dissent, putting the country’s judiciary and media under his control and taking the mostly Muslim but officially secular country on an increasingly socially conservative course during his 18 years in power.

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