Turkish Bar Associations Pushback On Erdogan Rule Changes To Bar Assoc Governing Elections

ANKARA: Fifty bar associations throughout Turkey have joined forces to express their concerns over proposed changes to rules governing elections to their boards which they claim are undemocratic.

Turkey’s bar associations are among the few remaining dissident voices in Turkey holding out against governmental pressure on the country’s judiciary.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently hinted at a long-debated change to the election processes for the bar associations and is currently working on a draft bill that would significantly decrease their many authorities.

The bill aims to change the election system of the bars’ administrations via proportional representation and open the way to the establishment of alternative associations in each city that could send delegates to the Union of Turkish Bar Associations.

In this way, the alternative bar associations would decrease the voting weight of the largest associations who have been openly critical of the ruling government’s legal wrongdoings.

For some time, Turkey’s biggest bar associations, especially those in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, have been highlighting deficiencies in the rule of law in Turkey.

Recently, 46 bar associations issued a joint declaration criticizing the government’s amnesty law which allowed for the release of mafia bosses and child abusers from prison, while keeping dissident journalists locked up.

Bar associations have also slammed health and hygiene conditions in Turkish jails and called for the release of prisoners as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a recent statement, Istanbul Bar Association chairman, Mehmet Durakoglu, said that the government had “achieved what it couldn’t do by political means” at the ballot box by using the judiciary as a tool against dissidents.

A total of 51 bar associations across the country recently boycotted a judges’ ceremony at the presidential palace, claiming the choice of venue showed once again the lack of separation of powers in the country.

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