Rule of law at risk in Turkey


As Turkey's leader, President Tayyip Erdogan, continues to rout out his political enemies following the weekend's failed military coup, experts highlight that the recent round of arrests and suspensions are the latest attempts to weaken the rule of law and democracy in the country.

Since the coup, around 50,000 civil servants, including judges, soldiers and teachers, have been either arrested or suspended from work.

Both the rule of law and freedom of expression are now at risk, warns Kristin Hausler, Dorset senior research fellow at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law.

"The arrest of close to 3,000 judges and prosecutors, following the removal of more than a 1,000 of them as a consequence of the inquiry into bribery and corruption which started in 2013, further undermines the rule of law in Turkey," she said in a briefing note.

"The Anti-Terror Law and the Penal Code have both been used to prosecute journalists, writers, editors, publishers, translators, civil/political rights activists, lawyers, elected officials and students for exercising their right to freedom of expression."

Turkish parliament convenes for extraordinary session following the failed coup attempt on July 16, 2016 in Ankara, Turkey.
Erhan Ortac | Getty Images

Democracy in Turkey is hanging by a thread, warned Anthony Skinner, director and head of political strategy at risk analysts Verisk Maplecroft.

"The primary pillars of what constitutes a democracy are still there, but when it comes to civil society being able to express itself freely and when it comes to checks and balances, those elements have been sacrificed over the years and at an accelerated rate today," he told CNBC in a phone interview.

"We are witnessing an aggressive crackdown against institutions and individuals who have either demonstrated some form of dissent against Erdogan or are not proven supporters of his government."

Erdogan is expected to propose constitutional reforms which may include reinstating the death penalty and creating an executive-style presidency with greater decision-making and legislative powers.

However, it would not be an easy process for Erdogan to change the constitution, according to Skinner.

Clothes and weapons beloging to soldiers involved in the coup attempt that have now surrendered lie on the ground abandoned on Bosphorus bridge on July 16, 2016, Istanbul,Turkey.
Gokhan Tan | Getty Images

One method would be to hold a referendum, but Erdogan's AK party does not have the sufficient number of seats in the country's national assembly -- it currently occupies 317 out of 550 -- to call for a vote.

"He needs 330 seats in order to hold a referendum, and polls prior to the coup showed that Turkish civil society is incredibly divided. Roughly speaking, 50 percent of the electorate support Erdogan and 50 percent do not," he said.

"It's not guaranteed that Erdogan would be able to achieve a full-fledged and formal executive presidency by holding a referendum. Holding new elections may be a better bet."

Turkey's economy is also under pressure. Its currency has fallen and its stock market has experienced significant volatility.

"The volatility continued to shadow the equity market and consumer confidence. The Turkish Lira is drowning for now and remains under constant pressure," said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Forex, in a note.

"Traders will focus on the consumer confidence index data and a fall in this number may make the situation direr."

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