European Council body: Turkey sliding towards ‘autocratic one-man rule’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cuts a lonely figure.

The Council of Europe Venice Commission, an advisory body made up of independent experts in the field of constitutional law has said there is a “dramatic decline in democratic order” and that Turkey “is sliding towards an autocratic one-man rule,” the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

The commission, which advises the Council of Europe on constitutional change in 57 member states, prepared the report in relation to Turkey’s upcoming constitutional referendum in April.

According to the body, the 18-article change will also eliminate checks and balances and mechanisms to challenge or stop decisions taken by the president.

The critical report also says the new presidential system will give the president ultimate powers to appoint and dismiss ministers arbitrarily without inspection as well as use decree laws and extend the state of emergency in the country. Another criticism – which has also been highlighted by opposition parties – is that the reform will completely do away with an independent judiciary.

According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Venice Commission report is also critical of the fact that Turkey is holding a referendum under state of emergency, which was declared following last July’s coup attempt.

“The extensive limitation on political freedoms is preventing a democratic framework for the referendum from emerging,” the report reads and requests that it be postponed until state of emergency is lifted or that political freedoms be recognised immediately.

Speaking to Kom News recently on the constitutional reform, opposition deputies, Hisyar Ozsoy, Sezgin Tanrikulu and Ertugrul Kurkcu also raised similar concerns to the Venice Commission report.

The Turkish government has defended the changes saying the country will be strengthened in its “fight against terrorist groups.”

Referring to the prime ministerial and presidential positions, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has also stood by the new system saying it will put an end to the ‘double-headed’ nature of the current administration and consolidate power in the hands of the presidency, making governance easier.

Turkey is a founding member of the Council of Europe, formed in 1949.