Category: World Politics

Turkish Judiciary now Under Government Control

Recep Tayyip ErdoganTurkey’s judiciary, which was previously independent of the government, has now been placed directly under the control of government ministers. The ruling party has defended the move as part of a crackdown following accusations that a group of lawyers planned to overthrow the current government. However, the opposition has been critical of the new legislation, describing it as “a modern coup d’etat.”

The lawyers in question allegedly plotted against the government, under the cover of investigating a corruption scandal. The corruption investigation in question involved several prominent businessmen and the sons of former government ministers.

Off the back of these allegations Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been Turkey’s Prime Minister for the past 11 years, introduced legislation that placed the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors, the country’s premier judicial institution, under direct government control. As a result, the government can now appoint or dismiss judges and prosecutors, and enforce their decisions on the Supreme Council. Erdogan said that this was a necessary measure in countering threats to the government – an idea which the opposition question.

Many prosecutors and judges have now been dismissed by the government in connection with the allegations since the new powers took effect. The total number of dismissals reportedly reaches into the hundreds.

The move to place what was an independent judicial system under the direct control of the government has drawn widespread criticism both within Turkey and elsewhere across the world. The country’s opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, said that it granted “exceptional authority” to the justice minister. The Republican People’s Party’s Deputy Chair, Faruk Logoglu, accused the government of intending the legislation to “transform the Turkish state” into one that was undemographic and compared the result to a sultanate. He said that placing such power into the hands of the justice minister was simply “wrong.”

The human rights committee of the Law Society has also spoken out against the legislation. They have criticised the government’s introduction of this legislation, saying that it hinders free speech and challenges the Turkish judicial system’s independence. The committee’s chair, Professor Sara Chandler, said that ” The legislation passed earlier this week, to bring the country’s top judicial body under justice ministry influence, is unconstitutional and undermines the judiciary’s independence.”

Professor Chandler went on to say: “The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors is responsible for appointing members of the judiciary, is an independent body and should remain so.”

 

History in the making; past lessons for todays diplomats

As the situation in Syria escalates, international diplomats have to decide what to do. Indeed, Syria was discussed in depth at the recent G8 summit. Apart from showing the deeper divides between the US and Russia on this matter, it seems that little was actually decided as regards a response to the ongoing civil war.

 

As the fighting in Syria continues, bringing more devastation and human suffering, at some stage the international community has to take action.  The  difficult question here is what realistically can be done? As several nations are considering a more muscular and military response, will entering the conflict actually do any good? There is also the concern that President Assad might use chemical weapons- the international community has to decide how to act if that happens.

 

In deciding and implementing a response, history is full of case studies and examples that a diplomat considering this matter should look at. The first and major lesson is quite clear: appeasement does not work. Giving in to dictators or authoritarian regimes in the hope that they will be satisfied, and stop being a nuisance quite simply does not work. Munich 1938 is a very good example of this; the agreement signed between Adolf Hitler and Neville Chamberlain quite simple had little value. Diplomats and international government officials should never concede any ground when dealing with such regimes.

 

Leading on from that, history shows that negotiations, peace treaties, diplomatic agreements and such niceties will only both sides so far, as the Abyssinia Crisis of 1936 shows. It is perfectly possible to arrive at a diplomatic solution that is acceptable to both sides, and end the crisis there. Such a solution is to be strived towards, as it is morally the best outcome for both sides. Unfortunately, such a resolution is relatively rare. If  negotiations show no signs of working- then diplomats should be prepared to consider alternative and tougher measures (such as Margaret Thatcher’s decisive and bold stance over the Falklands). Negotiations will only get so much progress- often, dictators will only respond to threats or tough measures, and will carry on unmoved by polite diplomatic rhetoric, or endless rounds of conferences. Diplomats and politicians should enter discussion hopefully- but be prepared to apply tougher measures if those talks break down. The stalemate between Iran, the US and the West perfectly illustrates this; the last few decades have been punctuated by talks, hopeful diplomacy, and aggression and threats when such diplomacy has broken down.

 

Worse than making the wrong decision, or making the wrong move, is doing nothing at all. This allows the situation to escalate, unchecked, and gives rogue dictators a sense of security and arrogance. They get the impression that it is okay to continue their oppression, their fighting, even their genocides, as the international community is standing by idly and doing nothing. In a sense, they have got away with it. In an international community that champions human rights and decency, to accidentally give that impression by a non- interventionist approach is morally wrong. Even if unwilling to use force, action of whatever sorts (be it sanctions, statements, UN resolutions, etc) must be taken by the international community. In this instance, a policy of doing nothing is the worst possible response- and actually can cause more harm than good by allowing rogue regimes to flourish unchecked or un-criticised.

 

If, however, a nation or coalition decides, upon considering the facts, that the only possible response is a military response, make that decision carefully. Before sending in the army, be prepared for a long and bloody war. This is especially so in the case of guerrilla warfare or civil wars;  essentially, where the sides and participants are not so certain. As history shows, fighting in those arenas can be particularly bloody, and also very protracted (Northern Ireland being a good case in point here).

 

Above all, if history has taught politicians and diplomats anything- consider the endgame. Before even committing troops, consider how and when a likely troop withdrawal will occur- and the consequences. Consider that reconstruction will be necessary- especially after a brutal war. After the CIA funded campaign which saw the the USSR leave Afghanistan, nothing was done to rebuild the country. Having successfully and covertly overthrown the Soviet forces, the good was undone by a failure to consider the endgame, and set in motion plans to effect reconstruction.

 

Education and rebuilding the morale and hopes of a nation will be essential; if not now, in 30 years time when those children who lived in fear during war will be business, social, and political leaders.  Infrastructure might have to be repaired, cities might have to be rebuilt. The reconstruction and the endgame will be as daunting, problematical and demanding as the war and fighting itself. During the war, it is essential to build and strengthen long term relationships with local, social, and business leaders; their  support will be invaluable during the long endgame. Additionally, the endgame could last for  many years- so even before inviting battles plans from senior military chiefs, seek the advise of foreign affairs and economic advisers as to the reconstruction and what happens after the fighting.

 

History is full of examples, from classical Rome to the Cold War, of lessons in international relations and diplomacy. History shows what has worked, and what doesn’t. History also shows, with monotonous regularity, that leaders often don’t learn from history.

 

However, it seems that, by mixture of international condemnation of Syria, the determination to intervene, mixed with uncertainty as to the best way to intervene, and the reluctance to commit troops, international diplomats have finally learned the lessons of history. Only time will tell, as tougher measures are discussed, to what extent those lessons have been learned.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Recently, in a land better known for cricket, beaches and beer, rather than Washington DC-esque politics, political manoeuvrings resulted in the resignation of their leader. In Australia, Kevin Rudd recently toppled Julia Gilliard in a successful parliamentary leadership coup- three years after she had done that to him. Politics is not totally devoid of irony, as Mr. Rudd returns to the PM’s residence, this time with his work cut out for him, but still riding on his former popularity.

 

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Given that the Labor Party he now leads is facing an election soon, the timing is not great. However, it is the result of endemic power struggles which often appear in democracies where there is opportunity and struggles for the top jobs, as they are chosen by either party or people. As Ms. Gilliard, Australia’s first female Prime Minister and a divisive figure, steps out of the limelight (but for how long?), she can be comforted in the knowledge she is not the first democratic leader to fall in such a way.

 

As the Berlin Wall fell, and the USSR collapsed rapidly, Mikhail Gorbachev was pursuing policies of perestroika, glastnost and greater openness with the West.  Amidst the power vacuum as the old USSR collapsed, a Siberian gained in popularity and power. Whilst standing up for the government during the 1991 coup, and supporting Gorbachev vocally from a tank turret, Boris Yeltsin had other plans; the presidency. After the rapid events in Russia in 1991, Yeltsin became the first President of the Russian Federation before Christmas, having effectively toppled Gorbachev.

 

For Russia, though, outside forces and international issues played a part in Gorbachev’s fall; if Russia had not been in chaos, and if the economy had been better, it is likely that Gorbachev could have seen off Yeltsin. Ms. Gilliard can draw comfort from the fact that even a great elder statesman like Gorbachev is not immune from the same plotting that was her downfall.

 

More recently, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has successfully seen of threats to his power since elected in 2006. There have been not leadership challenges per se but moves to undermine his power base, to challenge him in motions of no confidence, and other political moves to force him out of 24 West Sussex Drive (the Canadian Prime Minister’s residence) . Indeed, since 2006, there have been several elections, mostly triggered by political events rather than a government seeking re-election after their term of office. Although quite unpopular in Canada, Harper has been returned to power each time.

 

A calculating political machine, seemingly more concerned with his own power base and Ottawa politics rather than Canadian interests domestically or internationally, he is still in power despite numerous political episodes.  Most notably, in 2008, debates over the Budget deteriorated so much that the subsequent chain of events made Mr. Harper, put then Governor General Michaelle Jean in a very tricky constitutional situation concerning proroguing Parliament, over December 2008 and January 2009. Luckily, the situation was resolved- but in avoiding a motion of no confidence over his party’s budget, Mr. Harper nearly triggered a constitutional crisis.

 

Given Mr. Harper’s impressive track record in nimbly avoiding such challenges, Ms. Gilliard could learn from him.

 

More domestically, the Conservative Party here in the UK are no stranger to leadership challenges. Margaret Thatcher was removed aver 11 years not by people but by a successful leadership challenge using rarely- used party rules and procedures that placed a (relative) newcomer in No.10.

 

Subsequent party leaders have had to watch their backbenchers as keenly as the opposition benches, as leaders have come and gone quite frequently due to dissent, opposition and political manoeuvrings from their own party.  At least Ms. Gilliard only had one main and expected opponent, instead of potential challengers appearing out of nowhere in her party. However, it only takes one main challenger or opponent to cause your political downfall – as Tony Blair found to his cost with Gordon Brown.

 

Although out of Australian politics for now, it would not be surprising if Ms. Gilliard made a comeback to the political arena at some stage, and ended up in a subsequent Cabinet or as Prime Minister again. It is not unlikely; but if she pulls it off, many Western democratically elected leaders will be watching and learning intently from her.

 

In the meantime, Kevin Rudd returns as Prime Minister in time to face an election. It just goes to show, that sometimes in a democracy the greatest threat to your power base is not the will, vote or voice of the people, nor a free press or an independent judiciary, not the opposition parties – but rather the people sitting on the same parliamentary benches just behind you, supporting you with their voice, but plotting against you with their minds.

 

Democratic leaders should bear in mind the old wisdom to ‘keep your friends close- but your enemies closer’- for unintentionally, that is what they actually do.

 

Guest Post contribution from: The Law Ninja.