Turkey’s main opposition to challenge election law amendment

The Republican People’s Party (CHP), Turkey’s centre-left secular main opposition, is taking the recent amendment to the country’s election laws to the Constitutional Court (AYM) to annul three articles, news website Duvar reported on Sunday.

Judges who have less experience will be heading the provincial and district election councils according to the new laws. The chairs will be chosen via random draw from among those with the title ‘first-degree judge’, and election councils will have a complete overhaul in the next three months.

Judges will need to be stationed in city centres and to have no outstanding disciplinary penalties. They will also have to be at least chosen to be promoted to the first degree. In the old version, the most experienced judge in a constituency would chair the election council.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has only discussed the changes to be made with its partner in the People’s Alliance, far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), CHP deputy Murat Bakan had said last week in a speech at parliament.

“This is a set-up to enable a de facto AKP dictatorship,” Bakan said. The amendment only favours the People’s Alliance, and was not discussed with any other constituents, the deputy said.

In March, CHP depury Süleyman Bülbül had called for the AKP to make public how many judges were registered members of the ruling party.

“As of today, there are 3,763 first-degree judges and 1,368 chosen to be promoted to first-degree,” Bülbül said ahead of the vote on the amendment.

The previous version of the law meant that judges who were appointed before the AKP came to power would often serve as chairs of election councils. Many judges have been appointed in recent years, following the purge of civil servants believed to have ties to the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016.

The next presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey are scheduled for 2023. Ahead of the elections, polls show that the AKP has lost significant support due to its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ailing economy, and its refugee policies, while opposition parties seek to join forces to end the AKP’s two-decade rule.

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