Critical debate on the separation of powers in Turkey

The human rights situation in Turkey will be analyzed and debated this Tuesday in the European Parliament. And MEPs are expected to take a much more critical stance than either the Council or the Commission, which recently expressed their willingness to continue cooperating with Ankara as long as it makes progress on human rights.

But according to the organization Human Rights Watch, both the rule of law and democracy are suffering a dramatic erosion. The separation of powers is in danger.

“What matters is the president’s vision [Recep Tayyip Erdogan]. Prosecutors not only apply what the president has said with an interval of just a few days, they also become his promoters. Citizens are concerned that anyone can go to jail for anything, “explains Marc Pierini, a political analyst at Carnegie Europe.

The executive’s control over the judiciary has led the courts to systematically accept false accusations, convicting people without convincing evidence. And these people include journalists, opposition politicians and human rights defenders.

“Many of them have disappeared in the prison system. There are reports of abuse and torture in prison. It is a great cause for concern in Turkey,” says Paul Levin of Stockholm University.

Despite this dismal record, the Presidents of the European Commission and the Council recently visited Ankara. Brussels defends the trip saying that the issue was raised with President Erdogan to whom they made it clear that human rights are not negotiable.

“To some extent, it is almost a joke when EU leaders repeat that they are seriously concerned,” says Levin. “But it is also true that what the EU says or thinks matters.”

In fact, the EU still wields enormous influence over Turkey as it is by far Ankara’s largest trading partner. Therefore, Erdogan is interested in avoiding any financial sanction, even if viewed from an electoral point of view.

“The weak point of the Turkish side is the economy. The economy is going down the drain. At first it was Erdogan’s great success as he created a kind of lower middle class among his electorate by improving their standard of living. But it is no longer like this, “says Marc Pierini.

Could this mean that European economic generosity will be conditional on the introduction of democratic reforms? The experts are divided, and so are the governments of the EU member states.

But the answer could come with the next Turkish general elections scheduled for 2023.