Turkey’s parliament is slated to re-open on October 1, and among the key topics on the agenda is the government’s highly-touted judicial reform package. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have voiced certain demands for what they believe must be included in the package.
The CHP has said that changes in the structure and selection method of the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) is necessary for judicial reform. The HSK has the power to appoint, dismiss and discipline the country’s judges and prosecutors. Prior to a 2017 constitutional referendum backed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that established a presidential system in Turkey, the bulk of the HSK members were selected by the judiciary, but in the first vote after the referendum, four members were selected by Erdoğan himself while seven were elected by parliament.
“The included regulations may ensure some benefits but if a regulation is to be made in the name of judicial reform, priority must be given to reconsidering the HSK in the constitution. Without this, judicial reform is out of the question,” said an unnamed CHP official.
The MHP is demanding what it describes as amnesty for more than 160,000 prisoners currently behind bars. Last year, the party submitted a draft bill to parliament that sought to apply conditional five-year sentence reductions to those convicted of certain crimes, which did not include serious crimes such as terror and murder charges. The MHP has said it wants its amnesty clause to become effective starting with the October 29 Republic holiday.
While Erdoğan has championed his judicial reform strategy as one that would be in compliance with EU accession standards, critics are skeptical that the government will actually take concrete steps toward judicial reform, asserting that Erdoğan exerts formidable control over the judiciary. After the 2016 failed coup attempt, thousands of judges and prosecutors were dismissed from their positions and arrested. Many were accused of being followers of the exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, which Turkey believes to be the mastermind behind the 2016 failed coup attempt.