’President ErdoIan’s rhetoric keeps people on knife-edge in run-up to June 7 election’

This weekand’s guest for Monday Talk has said that people are on a knife-edge in the lead-up to the June 7 parliamentary election, and both the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are responsible for this.
and”President Erdogan is at the forefront in this election and he is even more prominent than Prime Minister [Ahmet] Davutoilu,and” said Tahir Elandci, head of the Diyarbakir Bar Association.
and”People in the society have no doubt that President Erdoganand’s acts are against the Constitution, which says the president should be neutral. In addition, his rhetoric is harsh and furthers polarization in the society.and”
Tensions during the election process increased when two explosions wounded seven people at the offices of the pro-Kurdish Peoplesand’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Adana and Mersin in southern Turkey.
The government condemned the attacks, but HDP officials accused ministers of inciting hatred against the HDP, which is trying to secure 10 percent of votes needed to enter Parliament in the June 7 election.
Should the HDP enter Parliament, the AK Partyand’s position would be weakened and President Erdogan might not be able to bring in a presidential system as he seeks more executive powers. The ruling party needs at least 367 deputies out of the 550 members of Parliament in order to change the Constitution.
Polls show that AK Party votes are in a long-term decline and the HDP has obtained a slight but steady rise in the vote share as there is much uncertainty that the HDP, which is entering the election for the first time, could cross the 10 percent threshold.
and”People would like to hope that a rejuvenated Parliament would provide a fresh start for a more peaceful environment and democratic renewal in the country,and” Elandci said.
Answering our questions in Diyarbakir, he elaborated on the issue.
The Human Rights Association has released a report regarding violence during the election campaigns of the political parties, and according to their report, 114 out 126 incidents were directed toward the offices of the HDP. Do you have similar observations?
Since the incident in Airi, there has not been any violence regarding any of the political parties in this region. Prime Minister Davutoilu mentioned recently that a police car was going to be waiting near an AK Party election office in Mardin, and possible violence was thwarted. However, in the election, HDP offices and people have been subjected to systematic and widespread violence like we have never had before.
It is not unusual that Kurdish politicians face violence during election campaigns, but this time we have had so many incidents of systematic violence. On May 4, the Diyarbakir Bar Association put out a press release indicating that the HDP has faced almost one violent act daily since the election campaigns started, and this threatens election security.
In addition, we indicated that President Erdoganand’s speeches and statements increase tensions in the society and contribute to injustice during the election campaign. We told the administrative and judicial bodies that it is the government which is responsible for providing a secure election environment. We also expressed to all the political parties that violence against any political party during the election campaign would not be good for other parties, either, because an unjust election campaign environment would increase suspicions about the election results. So we called on all political parties to condemn violence during the election campaign.
Some pro-Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) people have carried out attacks toward HDP supporters in the country, and we expected that because the HDP has been campaigning all over the country in this election, and the supporters of the parties are on the far ends of the political spectrum. Of course, the government needs to prevent any type of violence. But we had some dangerous developments in Istanbul — some people coming out of a mosque in the Gazi district used firearms and seriously wounded two people — and then in Adana and Mersin.
You went to Adana and Mersin to better observe what happened there, right?
Those two incidents have worried us, especially after what we have seen there. Both violent acts were apparently planned to hurt tens of people with strong explosives. In both cities, deaths were prevented just because in Adana, people left the place earlier than planned, and in Mersin, the blast was at the terrace of a building in Mersin [Six people were hurt, three seriously, at the HDPand’s offices in Adana one man was slightly hurt in Mersin when a device went off, hidden in a bouquet of flowers].
Do you suspect specific organizations?
This must have been the job of some dark forces. The government needs to reveal it.
Do you think the investigation into the incidents has been fast and thorough?
Not yet. Prime Minister Davutoilu said there was a suspected incident in Mardin and five people were immediately detained in relation to it.
Selahattin Demirtai openly accused the government in relation to the incidents in Adana and Mersinandhellip
I do not think that the government would directly do such a thing, but some dark forces within the state may have done it. The government is responsible for preventing such acts and providing a safe and secure election environment.
h2andlsquo10 percent election threshold unjustand’h2 You indicated that President Erdoganand’s speeches and statements have increased tensions in the society and have contributed to injustice during the election campaign. Would you explain how this has happened?
President Erdogan is at the forefront in this election and he is even more prominent than Prime Minister Davutoilu. When President Erdogan participates in opening ceremonies, those ceremonies are turned into campaign rallies, and this is disturbing. Even President Erdogan said his actions are and”unusual.and”
People in the society have no doubt that President Erdoganand’s acts are against the Constitution, which says the president should be neutral. In addition, his rhetoric is harsh and furthers polarization in the society. For example, regarding the Kurdish issue, President Erdogan said the government has done everything to solve the problem, and asking for more is absurd!
This is a discriminative and degrading approach towards the Kurdish people, who are seeking their rights and asking for the implementation of promises given — education in mother tongue, public services in Kurdish, etc. President Erdogan even said that a neutral and”observatory committee,and” which was to be formed to monitor the talks between the sides regarding the Kurdish issue, is and”unnecessary.and” This type of statement even harms the governmentand’s steps that are being taken to proceed with the solution process.
In addition, President Erdoganand’s insistence on a presidential system is increasing tensions. All of this is disturbing for the society and weakens belief in elections. People would like to hope that a rejuvenated Parliament would provide a fresh start for a more peaceful environment and democratic renewal in the country. On the contrary, people are on a knife-edge because of all that obscurity.
In the region, I observed that people on the street are worried because of the possibility that the HDP might be excluded from Parliament. Women and men I have had conversations with on the streets, coffee houses and shops told me that if the HDP cannot pass the election threshold, they will not be able to hold back young people who are likely to rise up. What is your opinion in this regard?
Of course, we are worried about that, too. The HDP is entering the elections as a party for the first time. There is no doubt that the 10 percent election threshold is an unjust practice. There is no doubt that the election threshold prevents the fair representation of people. Still, there is hope the HDP will pass the threshold. People would not be so angry if the HDP votes were to be distributed among all parties in the case the HDP could not pass the election threshold, but in the current system, the HDP votes — that means 50 to 60 seats — would automatically go to the AK Party, the HDPand’s main competitor in the Kurdish region if the HDP remains below the 10 percent election threshold.
Therefore, it is likely that the masses would be outraged by such an outcome. Still, as a person of law, Iand’d recommend non-violence and only democratic reaction. I do not expect chaos, but we are all uneasy because there are many unknowns, including what will happen to the current Parliament system. I doubt that even the AK Partyand’s base has been satisfied with the current course of events.
h2andlsquoPresident should be respectful of democracyand’h2 Would you elaborate on this idea? What other developments does that current course of events involve?
If Turkey does not have a democratic Political Parties Law, if political parties lack inner democratic monitoring mechanisms and lawmakers take orders only from the president, if the judiciary lacks independence, if there is no freedom of the press, if civil society organizations are not strong enough, and if local administrations lack powers, then this kind of presidential system would bring an authoritarian, even totalitarian type of regime into Turkey. In other words, there needs to be separation of powers in the country for a democratic regime.
So are you saying that if the government had a more democratic Turkey in mind, then it would have implemented some democratic rules and regulations?
Yes, thatand’s why people have concerns signs do not indicate that Turkey is on the path of democracy. And if peopleand’s will is not represented in the Parliament, you cannot bring a presidential system. This is the foremost issue of peopleand’s concerns — they fear that President Erdogan might impose a presidential system if the AK Party gets enough power. People from all political colors are not satisfied with the course of events.
You indicated before that the president oversteps his boundaries, and this is against the Constitution. But some government officials say they do not recognize the current Constitution because it is the Constitution of the Sept. 12, 1980 coup regime. Does that give the president the right to violate the Constitution?
There is no doubt that the current Constitution presents obstacles in front of Turkeyand’s democratic development, and that the current Constitution is the product of a coup regime. It has been amended many times. However, what we mean by not violating the Constitution is that the president should be respectful of democracy, in other words, he should be respectful of fair competition during elections, human rights, etc. It is the Presidential Office that checks if a law is in harmony with the Constitution. It is one of the basic duties of the president that if a law is not in harmony with the Constitution, he or she can send it back. In the Constitution, it has been indicated that a president cannot be brought to court other than the act of treason. In theory, it has not been thought that a president would commit criminal acts.
What is treason specifically?
In criminal law, there is no such crime as treason.
So does that mean it is open to interpretation?
It is open to interpretation. We can look at the crimes regarding violating the Constitution. Violating the Constitution is a very serious crime that requires serious sanctions. There is no doubt that the president violates the Constitution and does not care about the rule of law and rules of democracy.
Currently, the president plays ball instead of being a neutral arbitrator as required. The HDP has been right to apply to the High Election Council [YSK] asking for actions to provide fair elections, because according to our laws, it is the YSK that needs to provide a fair and secure election environment.
Can the YSK do that in spite of the president?
It could have expressed an opinion, and state that according to our Constitution, the president should severe relations with his or her party after being elected president because a president needs to be neutral. Then, people would have at least been satisfied that a judicial institution made a neutral statement.
h2andlsquoDemocratic freedoms lack protection with new lawand’h2 You are an activist bar association head. You walked to Parliament in protest and came against the new law relating to internal security. What are your concerns?
There are worrying rules the new law brings in. First of all, democratic freedoms lack protection. Because in demonstrations, which are required in a democratic society for freedom of expression, participating people can be detained for up to 48 hours without any permission from prosecutors indeed, there is even no need to inform a prosecutor of the detention of a person, according to the new law. According to the same law, people who are detained in this fashion can be subject to arbitrary accusations, such as murder and vandalism.
In addition, governors and police can detain a mass of people and place them all in one place and local administrators such as governors can bring people to trial. In short, this law reminds us of practices during extraordinary situations in the past. And of course, this dangerous law can be used as an arm by all governments, not just the ruling AK Party.
Have you been personally threatened because of your active stance?
Since the 1990s I have been threatened, and I am used to it. Currently, there is an environment of fear that cause people to stand back. When I speak up and make critical statements, I started to get aice that I should not speak so loudly. There are indirect pressures, too. It is impossible to say that there is no pressure.
You have also been going after the perpetrators of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances. The government has made some steps in this regard, but there has been no progress, right?
It is all over. I have no hopes that Turkey will make positive steps in regards to facing up to such crimes of the past. Only 10 to 12 cases have been brought to court through the personal hard work and efforts of some prosecutors, and we could not have a thorough presentation of facts regarding those cases.
In addition, those cases are not being heard by courts in the provinces where the events happened but in courts in faraway cities, such as izmir, Kirikkale and Eskiiehir. Victims have been victimized even more in the process.
Plus, with the earthquake that happened in the judiciary with the Dec. 17-25 process [massive corruption investigations in 2013 that implicated people in the inner circle of former Prime Minister Erdogan] prosecutors and judges who have made efforts to illuminate the corruption scandal were reassigned or removed in the aftermath of the Dec. 17, 2013 scandal.
How about what happened to the case of Uludere?
It involves very serious crimes and high level military and civilian bureaucrats. The case was transferred to military prosecutors, and we should not expect military prosecutors to come up against their superiors in the Chief of Staff. So the prosecution dismissed the proceedings. We took it to the Constitutional Court and we are waiting for the result.
Are you hopeful that the court will be fair and the families of the victims will obtain justice?
I was very hopeful from the court when Haiim Kiliandc was heading it. Now, there are questions regarding what is happening in the high court — valuable rapporteurs, who know the European case laws well, might have been changed, etc.
hr h2andlsquoRule of law ended with arrest of judgesand’h2 Whatever topic we touched on in this interview, we have come across a problem regarding rule of law in Turkey. Has the rule of law been eroded?
Expectations that superiority of the rule of law will prevail at the end have been dealt a big blow. There is no doubt that the judiciary is not independent. In Turkey, the judiciary has not had a very proud record in regards to respect for human rights. However, the judiciary has almost never been accountable. Now, we are at a point in which two judges have been arrested because they have made decisions that the government and the president did not like! … This is a first in the worldand’s judicial history.
You are referring to the two judges Metin andOzandcelik and Mustafa Baier, who were arrested following their recent rulings for the release of journalist Hidayet Karaca and a number of police officials who have been under arrest for almost five monthsandhellip
Yes, it is fine not to be pleased with the rulings of the judges it is fine to think the judges might have acted with prejudice it is fine to think the judges acted this way because they might be close to some movements, which are thought to be and”parallel structuresand” by government officials. But in a country which is ruled by laws, if a judge is arrested because of one of his rulings, then this means that the rule of law has ended in that country. Because even if those judges were wrong in their decisions, the system should have corrected it.
There might have been a need to keep those police officers and the journalists arrested the investigation in this regard was ongoing, so the detainees would have appeared in court soon, and a judge might have ordered to keep them arrested if necessary. If you arrest a judge because of his or her decision, then there is no way to compensate the trauma that is created in the society. You cannot tell any citizen of this country or observers from other countries that you have an independent judiciary. Nobody would respect the system. Ninety percent of people in the country do not respect the judiciary in Turkey anywayandhellip
hr h2PROFILE h2 Tahir Elandci
Head of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, Tahir Elandci is an attorney who has been working in Diyarbakir since 1Dogan. Concentrating on criminal cases related to human rights violations, he has represented victims in cases that involved public officials as perpetrators of crimes. In public, he is known as the and”lawyer of the JiTEM case,and” which concerns the extrajudicial executions of hundreds of missing people by an illegal group inside the gendarmerie known as JiTEM. He is among the founding members of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TiHV). He was also one of the first chairpersons who headed the organizationand’s Turkish branch.
Logistical support was provided by Platform for Independent Journalism (P24), an Istanbul-based non-partisan association.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman