By John Solomou
Nicosia [Cyprus] July 3 (ANI): At the beginning of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule, the reforms he made in the political system and the economy, coupled with the fact that he succeeded to rein in and neutralize the role of the Turkish Army, which for many decades was the final arbiter of political life in country, led many people hope that Turkey could serve as a role model for Middle Eastern and Arab countries.
However, this did not last long. After some years, as economic growth slowed down considerably and Turkey’s hopes for quick accession to the EU were frustrated, Erdogan, especially in the wake of the failed coup against him on July 16, 2016, changed course, upended the democratic changes he had made and removed the checks and balances provided for in the constitution.
Erdogan took advantage of the attempted coup to summarily sack an unprecedented number of public sector employees, as well as judges, academics, health workers, military officers, schoolteachers, prosecutors, and others.
Furthermore, the President now enjoys almost total control over judicial appointments, limiting the courts’ ability to provide checks and balances on the executive.
The Grand National Assembly of Turkey (GNAT – the Parliament of the country) was one of Erdogan’s main victims and has been effectively turned into a rubber-stamp Parliament, deprived of real power.
According to data cited by Abdullah Bozkurt, who runs the Nordic Research Monitoring Network, during the legislative session of October 2021 to September 2022, not a single one of the 716 draft bills that were submitted by the opposition were discussed in the Parliament. This must be something of a world record.
In sharp contrast, all the 80 draft bills submitted by the ruling AKP party and its ultra-nationalist ally the MHP were approved and became laws. This shows that the opposition parties in the Turkish Parliament are allowed to speak and argue but not to legislate.
Another worrying trend observed is that many parliamentary committees have lost their authority and were not convened even for a single meeting in the period under review. Other important committees met only once or twice in that period.
In all democratic countries one of the key functions of the Parliament is to supervise the work of government. And one of its main tools to carry out this supervisory function is the right to ask questions, ensuring in this way accountability, transparency and good governance. This entails parliamentarians submitting their queries in writing to the government via the Speaker of Parliament and receiving an answer in a short time.
However, in the Turkish Parliament, this right is largely neutralized, as the overwhelming majority of questions raised remains unanswered.
According to a relevant report, in the period under review, out of 15,664 written and oral questions that were submitted to the government, only 1,298 of these questions received a response within the 15- day period envisaged in the relevant bylaw. No answer was given to about two-thirds of all questions submitted, while many times the replies given are evasive and unrelated to the substance of the issue raised.
As Abdullah Bozkurt points out: “Out of 2,145 questions directed to the Ministry of Justice, only three were answered within the designated timeframe…The Interior Ministry managed to respond to a mere six out of 1,597 questions submitted by opposition lawmakers. These figures highlight the significant lack of responsiveness from key government ministries, raising concerns about transparency, accountability and the effectiveness of parliamentary oversight in the legislative process.”
In all democratic countries, one of the most important functions of the Parliament is to approve, reject or amend the budget prepared by the government. Governments prepare the budgets which determine the country’s economic policy in such a way as to achieve approval by the majority in the Parliament. As a rule, opposition parties demand changes in the budget that benefit large sections of the population, otherwise they threaten to reject the budget as a whole.
In Turkey, this function of the Parliament has been largely eroded as the budgets prepared by the government of President Erdogan are quickly approved by the relevant parliamentary committees, in which the members of the governing coalition have the majority, and then approved by the whole Parliament, without significant changes.
One more clear indication that the Grand National Assembly under Erdogan became a rubber stamp parliament is the fact that AKP and its ally the MHP systematically reject all motions proposed by the opposition parties to set up of commissions to investigate specific issues.
When opposition parties proposed the setting up of commissions to examine some burning issue, like the preparedness of the Turkish state to face earthquakes, or tax evasion or offshore accounts, such proposals are immediately rejected by the government block. So, the Parliament in effect is prevented from investigating any important issue that could be embarrassing for the government.
Unfortunately, the whole situation regarding the erosion of the power of the Parliament is not expected to change soon, as in the recent run-off election in May, Erdogan’s AKP party secured 263 seats in the Parliament, its allies the ultra-nationalist ally MHP 50 seats and three other smaller parties another 10.
As AKP and its allies control 323 seats in the 600-seat Parliament, they have elected Numan Kurtulmus, AKP’s deputy chairman, as Speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.
In this way Erdogan and AKP can be sure that they have the necessary majority to pass any law they want in the GNAT, without real scrutiny or in-depth examination. The Turkish Parliament has become an institution having the de jure power, but not the de facto power to change or reject bills or really check the government. From time to time there are quite strong debates and even brawls among parliamentarians. But in the end the majority just rubber stamps the decisions taken by Erdogan’s government. (ANI)
Disclaimer: This story is auto-generated from a syndicated feed of ANI; only the image & headline may have been reworked by News Services Division of World News Network Inc Ltd and Palghar News and Pune News and World News
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