Judiciaries as Tools of Illiberalism – Approaching the Turkish Case

On Wednesday 3 May La Trobe Law School’s Dr Oz Susler will be joining academics from Deakin University: Dr David Tittensor, Professor Ihsan Yilmaz, and Mr Tezcan Gumus at a panel event at Deakin University to discuss the implications of the latest referendum in Turkey. ‘Turkey Referendum 2017: Where to Now?’ is held by the Middle East Studies Forum at Deakin University.

The genesis of the current research article by Dr Oz Susler and Mr Ekin Ilbahar, was a conference paper drafted by Dr Oz Susler, Dr David Tittensor and Dr Raul Sanchez-Urribarri for the University of Graz Symposium on Populism, Majoritarianism and Crises of Liberal Democracy: Modes of Illiberal Governance in Comparative Perspective in 2015.

Courts are assigned to be the bastions of liberalism in democratic regimes. Within a traditional liberal-democratic framework, the judicial system is expected to hold elected leaders accountable for breaches of the rule of law and to protect citizens’ rights against abuses of power by the executive. When governments begin to systematically breach the rule of law for the sake of political gain, judicial institutions may choose to remain at the margins of political contestation, or even become mechanisms to achieve a series of illiberal goals, including the manipulation of elections, curtailing freedom of expression and limiting the right to protest.

This article critically assesses the trajectory of the state courts during the rule of Erdogan under the ‘Justice and Development Party’ (AKP), by focusing on key judicial cases which highlight how the judiciary has been used as a tool of illiberal governance. It also evaluates the implications of previous amendments to the structure of the judiciary, including the recent referendum for amendments to the Constitution and in particular, its implications for the role of the judiciary in Turkey’s future.

La Trobe