Müzeyyen Yüce / DUVAR
Elections in a total of 57 bar associations have been postponed for the fourth time because of the Interior Ministry's decision to ban activities of certain occupational groups supposedly as part of COVID-19 measures.
The elections were initially scheduled to be held in October 2020, but only 24 associations were able to hold them since then. The bar associations of Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir and Antalya, which have the highest number of members, haven't been granted permission to do so.
Bar association heads have slammed the Interior Ministry, saying that the bans are not related to the pandemic.
"This process is driving bar associations to chaos," Istanbul Bar Association head Mehmet Durakoğlu told Duvar on June 3, adding that district electoral boards have also been adopting contradicting decisions that result in some bars being able to hold elections while others couldn't.
"This is openly unlawful," he said.
Durakoğlu noted that the prevention of elections may result in those elected holding their posts for one year only, since the legal practitioners' act openly says that elections must be held in September of years that end in even numbers.
"If we can hold the elections this October, the person elected can only stay in their post for one year. There are no legal regulations on this," he said.
Ankara Bar Association board member Özgen Hindistan also slammed the Interior Ministry, saying that there has been major uncertainty on when the elections will be held.
Tensions between bar associations and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have been running high since last year when parliament passed a law on changing the structure of bar associations, a move that lawyers argued will further undermine judicial independence in a country where the judiciary is already in disarray.
Thousands of lawyers protested in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities against the plan at the time, saying the law aims to silence some of the few institutions still speaking out against the government's record on rule of law and human rights.