Council of Europe worried about democracy in Turkey as Erdogan seeks unlimited power


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. File photo

ARA News

The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) has expressed its worries about upcoming referendum in Turkey and disproportionate response of Turkey to the failed military coup of 15 July 2016.

“The Monitoring Committee has followed with great attention the adoption of 18 constitutional amendments in the Turkish Parliament on 21 January 2017, thus paving the way for a referendum which is expected to take place in early April 2017,” the Monitoring Committee of PACE said. “If approved by the Turkish people, the constitutional amendments will lead to a profound change in Turkey’s political system, with a shift from a parliamentary to a presidential system.”

According to PACE, the presidential system could lead to an autocratic regime which could give Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan unlimited powers.

“The committee has deep concerns as to whether the revised constitution – which will grant extensive powers to the President of the Republic – would guarantee the separation of powers, proper checks and balances and the independence of the judiciary, which are a prerequisite for democratic societies.”

The committee also voiced concern about the stripping of immunity of 154 parliament members in May 2016, and the detention of dozens of members the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

The committee was also angered by Turkey that neither the ad hoc Sub-Committee, the Monitoring Committee rapporteurs nor the Presidential Committee were allowed to meet the imprisoned co-chairs of the HDP during a visit to Turkey.

“(…) [It] has had a deterrent effect and will lead to serious restrictions to democratic debate in the run up to the referendum,” it said in a statement on Thursday.

In the meantime, the Council of Europe condemned the dismissing of 150,000 civil servants, the prosecution of 100,000 citizens and the detaining of 40,000 of them. “[It] has created a climate of suspicion and fear despite steps recently taken by the authorities to open access to legal remedies,” the organization said.

Furthermore, it noted that over 140 journalists are in prison, and that a high number of NGOs, associations, foundations and media outlets were closed, undermining public debate and press freedom.

“In the light of the current restrictions on fundamental freedoms in Turkey, notably the freedoms of expression, media and assembly, the Monitoring Committee urges the Turkish authorities to ensure that the organisation and conduct of the referendum complies with Council of Europe and Venice Commission guidelines, and the principles enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights,” the Monitoring Committee of PACE said.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News 

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