Former Turkish President and departed member of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Abdullah Gül slammed the government’s attack on the country’s Constitutional Court (AYM) in the past week following the interpretation of a member’s social media post as a “coup threat.”
Top court member Engin Yıldırım tweeted a photo of the AYM building on Oct. 13 with the message “The lights are on,” meaning the court is working at a late hour, shortly after a local court blatantly ruled against a top court ruling.
As Yıldırım’s caption of the photo had previously been used in Turkey’s coup-ridden modern history as a hint for a military takeover, the court member was slammed for his seemingly unconstitutional social media post.
The most recent controversy fueled an ongoing debate surrounding Turkey’s Constitutional Court, as ruling alliance partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli suggested a few weeks ago that the top court be “overhauled.”
The AKP and officials in Ankara, including the Justice Minister, had voiced support of Bahçeli’s call to overthrow a key element of the government’s checks and balances.
“I am completely appalled that the AYM is being dragged through the mud for taking a libertarian approach to things,” former President Gül told Murat Sabuncu, columnist and veteran journalist at T24 news portal.
Noting that the Constitutional Court is supposed to take a completely objective stance against all cases, regardless of defendants’ potential affiliations to the government, the former president noted the AKP government in fact worked to allow the court wider jurisdiction in the past.
“We were all proud to implement the right for personal applications,” Gül said, referring to the process of opening up the top court to individual petitions. “The AKP did all that, and we were proud of it. So what changed to cause an attack on members of the Constitutional Court?”
Majority of the AYM’s current members were appointed by President Gül and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the former AKP member noted, adding that the top court is a “safeguard” for the government.
“It’s a safeguard because the executive, administrative and governing branches could make mistakes, or act out of anger. But after the incident is cooled off, it’s better for them if an error is corrected by the AYM.”
The former president also said that the Constitutional Court had been the single government institution that lost the least of its credibility over the course of the AKP rule.