Turkey risks drift to “authoritarianism” under presidential rule, says Venice Commission

By bne IntelliNews March 9, 2017

Proposed constitutional amendments would introduce a presidential regime in Turkey "which lacks the necessary checks and balances to prevent it from becoming an authoritarian one," the Venice Commission, an advisory body of constitutional law experts of the Council of Europe, warns in a draft report the Financial Times reported on March 9.

The commission’s report is to be published on March 10.

Next month, Turkey will hold a crucial referendum on switching to an executive presidential system with sweeping powers.

The popular vote comes less than a year after a failed coup attempt that left at least 200 people dead. More than 100,000 people, including military officers, policemen, judges, prosecutors, and civil servants, have been dismissed from duty over their alleged links to the coup plotters in the wake of the botched putsch.

A state of emergency has been in place since the coup attempt.

The government in Ankara dismisses criticism of “authoritarianism” like that found in the body's report, arguing that a powerful presidential system will only deliver more political stability and a stronger economy through more effective governance.

“The Turkish president would exercise executive power alone in the new regime, with “unsupervised power” to appoint and dismiss ministers and high officials “on the basis of criteria determined by him or her alone” and the president’s power “to dissolve parliament on any grounds whatsoever” would be fundamentally alien to democratic presidential systems,” the commission said in the draft document.

The watchdog also argued that the planned referendum should be postponed until emergency rule was lifted or “restrictions on political freedoms are reversed”.

“The whole process of parliamentary adoption and submission for approval by referendum of the constitutional amendments is taking place during the state of emergency, when very substantive limitations on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are in force,” it said.

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