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One Executive Decree That Changes Thirty Laws

Daily Cumhuriyet’s columnist Çiğdem Toker, in her daily column on Tuesday emphasized how the executive decrees being issued by President Erdogan since the coup rule Turkey since then. According to Toker, 23 KHKs have been promulgated under the current state of emergency which made Turkish Parliament virtually a marginal force in the governing system.

Toker’s column:

Turkey has been governed under a state of emergency (OHAL) for more than nine months since the bloody coup attempt on July 15. Since the state of emergency was declared following the bloody coup attempt on July 15, it has provided the basis for the issuance of the decree-laws (KHKs) by which Turkey has been governed for the last nine months.

The first KHK issued under the state of emergency on July 23, 2016, was number 667. Including the last two decree-laws (689, 690), 23 KHKs have been promulgated under the current state of emergency.

It has often been said that these state of emergency KHKs have sidelined parliament. Repeating this idea here might prove to be helpful: parliament’s most fundamental reason for being is its lawmaking function became irrelevant under the state of emergency’s regime of governance by decree. This is so much the case today that, if a draft of proposed legislation is brought to parliament, the only possible reaction is being surprised.

This situation, which begun in practice well before the April 16 referendum, has picked up speed since the release of official results of the referendum. On the one hand, the state is using the decrees as a vehicle to purge the government apparatus of unwanted people and groups; on the other hand, these orders are used to make all manner of changes to increase the Palace’s room to maneuver. Both of these uses lead to consequences that present serious legal violations. The government is using these decrees to redesign the state since they perceive the ‘state of emergency’ as a once in a lifetime opportunity. Even without getting into the details of the decrees – just by looking at the number of clauses and laws that have been changed – it is possible to see the opportunism that aims to leave the parliament powerless.

This is also true for the two most recently published state of emergency decrees. KHK Number 689 expelled 3,974 civil servants, and KHK Number 690 made substantial legal changes in many areas that impinge on the duties and responsibilities of the parliament. KHK Number 690, which included 77 legislative clauses, made changes to 30 separate laws and three previous KHK decrees.

Rules on banking, higher education, market capitalization, social security, village administration, Coast Guard command and the judiciary are just a few of the laws that have been changed by decree. The retroactive legal edicts included in the state of emergency KHKs also carry the intention to violate fundamental human rights.

Yet we are supposed to believe that a decree changing a total of 33 laws is a means of dealing with the forces behind the July 15 coup attempt. Consider an example from one of the legal changes related to combatting FETÖ. The Postal Service (PTT) is now able to operate in financial matters without the oversight of the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) – they will be able to issue electronic money. Money transfers conducted by organizations outside the banking sector used to be a very sensitive topic. Suddenly giving the PTT permission to do financial business without oversight from market authorities must have some underlying reason other than eliminating the threat of coups. At this point, we may recall that PTT was taken under the authority of the Turkey Wealth Fund (Türkiye Varlık Fonu) by another state of emergency decree. Even if we don’t know the real motives behind this move, we can at least say that a key banking function has been removed from BDDK oversight and turned into a shady area.

State of emergency decrees, which even address which organizations should be party to lawsuits, do nothing in the slightest to address or even consider the question, “How will the opposition proceed when the compliance laws come to parliament.” To the contrary, when it comes to the required legislative changes to put forth in the April 2017 Constitution, it would be more reasonable to ask: “Hey, AKP Regime! Hey, AKP Cabinet, you have the tremendous opportunity to use the state of emergency decrees however you wish. When it is possible to use these decrees to get quick results, why would you ever work with parliament?”

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