On 3 March the SEESOX webinar ‘Turkey’s constitution: The President’s monopoly over state power and the shrinking role of the parliament and judiciary’ focused on the diminishing role of both vis-à-vis the executive in the context of Turkey’s ‘new constitution’. The panel included Bertil Emrah Oder (Koç University), Ersin Kalaycıoğlu (Sabancı University), Murat Sevinç (Author); it was chaired by Mehmet Karli (St Antony’s College, Oxford). Introducing the seminar, Dr Karli noted that the panel would examine, among others, the functioning of this system over the last three years, following Turkey’s 2017 constitutional changes.
The first speaker, Bertil Emrah Oder, the Dean and Professor of Constitutional Law at Koç University Law School, unpacked the role of courts, and especially the role of the Constitutional Court in checking and balancing the use of power by the President. In addition, she examined the impact of the current system on the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms, explaining how Turkey could be seen as a case study to identify the dynamics of judiciary politics and constitutional reviews. She situated this case study in the broader literature on electoral autocracies and on comparative scholarship on the role of courts in the light of the third wave of autocratisation. Drawing on a range of examples, from cases of human rights defenders, journalists’ detention, and freedom of expression of academics, she analysed the judicial qualities and behaviour of Turkey’s Constitutional Court. She argued that the influence paradox, employed by the Court, masks autocratisation in Turkey and leads to the compliance of legitimisation advantages and the contestation of disadvantages for the populist autocracy. She concluded that the tensions embedded in this complexity are associated with the role of the constitutional judiciary in electoral autocracies, ultimately revealing the fragility of the Court and its dependence on political forces.