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Turkey - Government

The executive branch in Turkey has a dual structure. It is composed of the President of the Republic and the Council of Ministers. The president and the Council of Ministers, led by the prime minister, share executive powers. The president, who has broad powers of appointment and supervision, was elected by the Turkish Grand National Assembly [TGNA] for a seven-year term. But pursuant to a constitutional amendment package approved by voters in an October 2007 referendum, the president is directly elected by the voters for a term of 5 years and can serve for a maximum of two terms. The prime minister administers the government. The prime minister and the Council of Ministers are responsible to Parliament.

The 550-member Turkish Grand National Assembly [TGNA] carries out legislative functions. Election is by the D'Hondt system of party-list proportional representation. To participate in the distribution of seats, a party must obtain at least 10% of the votes cast at the national level as well as a percentage of votes in the contested district according to a complex formula.

Members of parliament (MPs) are elected for four year terms under a proportional system in 85 multi-member constituencies with closed political party lists and independent candidates. Seat redistribution was undertaken in early 2015, based on current population distribution statistics.5 The system of seat allocation established in the law results in a significant differential of registered voters to seats across constituencies, which is inconsistent with the principle of equality of the vote. The number of seats per constituency ranges from 2 to 30. In Bayburt province there are 27,059 registered voters per seat and in a constituency in Izmir 120,877 registered voters per seat.

The president enacts laws passed by Parliament within 15 days. With the exception of budgetary laws, the president may return a law to the Parliament for reconsideration. If Parliament reenacts the law, it is binding, although the president may then apply to the Constitutional Court for a reversal of the law. Constitutional amendments pass with a 60% vote, but require a popular referendum unless passed with a two-thirds majority; the president may also submit amendments passed with a two-thirds majority to a popular referendum.

When the Republic of Turkey was established, the Islamic law of the Ottoman Empire was replaced in 1926 with a secular system borrowed from the Swiss and Italian legal codes. The judicial system has been criticized for the influence of the executive branch, particularly the National Security Council, over adjudication of certain cases. Also criticized is the membership of the minister of justice, a member of the executive branch, on the powerful Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors, whose functions of overseeing the lower courts and choosing judges have no review mechanism. Prosecutors have wide authority in the investigation of cases.

All cases are heard by judges, not by juries. Minor civil and penal cases are assigned to civil and penal courts of the peace, respectively. Every province also has one penal and at least one civil court of first instance, each consisting of one judge, to hear routine cases assigned to the next level. Central criminal courts, of which Turkey had 172, hear more serious criminal cases. Those courts consist of a judicial panel of three. Commercial courts are a branch of the civilian court system, handling all cases arising from business and trade relationships. Some 35 such courts were in operation in 2007. In 2002 Turkey abolished application of the death penalty in peacetime. A new penal code, responding to some but not all of the membership requirements of the European Union (EU), went into effect in June 2005.

The highest court in Turkey is the Constitutional Court, which examines the constitutionality of laws and other government actions. Members of that court, which in the early 2000s increasingly became a bastion of secularism, are appointed by the president. The President appoints all members of the Constitutional Court, from groups of three nominees for most slots: two regular members and two alternates from the High Court of Appeals (Yargitay); two regular and one alternate from the Council of State (Danistay); one each from the Military Court of Appeals, High Military Administrative Court, and the Court of Accounts (Sayistay). He also appoints one member from the Higher Education Board (YOK), and three regular and one alternate from among senior civil service officials and lawyers.

The Court of Cassation, which is divided into 30 specialized chambers whose members are appointed by a Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (in turn appointed by the president), hears appeals from lower courts. The military court system, whose top level is the Military Court of Appeals, hears only cases related to the military. The Council of State settles administrative cases and offers opinions on laws drafted by the Council of Ministers. A 2004 amendment to the constitution abolished State Security Courts (SSCs), which had been cited for human rights violations as they carried out their function of trying individuals deemed a threat to national interests. However, the Heavy Penal Courts, appointed to replace the SSCs under the new Criminal Procedure Code of 2005, received similar powers, and the term SSC still is in common usage.

Turkey is divided into provinces based on geography, economic conditions and public service requirements. Provinces are further divided into administrative districts. Local administrative bodies are public entities established to meet the common needs of the local inhabitants of provinces, municipalities, districts and villages. The decision-making organs are chosen by the electorate prescribed in the law. The structure of the local administrations is defined by law.

Elections for local administrations are held every five years. By-elections are held in the following cases: if elections in an electoral region are cancelled due to procedural irregularity; if a provincial assembly or a city council is dissolved by the competent authority; if the majority of seats in a provincial assembly or a city council is vacated for any reason; and if, for whatever reason, the mayoralties are vacated.

All Turkish citizens 25 and older can be elected mayor or become a member of provincial assemblies and city councils providing the following conditions are fulfilled: all candidates must have completed primary school education, have full legal rights, have completed military service, have no prison record of one year or more, must not have been convicted of embezzlement, corruption, bribery, theft, fraud, forgery, breach of trust or fraudulent bankruptcy, or of smuggling, conspiracy in official biddings or purchases, offenses related to the disclosure of state secrets, involvement in ideological and anarchistic activities, or incitement and encouragement of such activities. Furthermore, a candidate must have resided in the electoral area for at least six months.

In local elections, a proportional representation system, based on a ten percent barrier, is implemented for membership to provincial assemblies and town councils. For mayoral posts the simple majority system is used. In electing members of the provincial assemblies, each administrative district is an electoral region. In elections for mayoral posts and city council members, each city is an electoral region. Voters elect a metropolitan mayor in cities comprising an electoral region of more than one administrative district. Votes are cast in metropolitan areas also for mayoral and city council posts in each administrative district.

A referendum to modify the existing constitution of Turkey was held September 12, 2010. The revisions made the military more accountable to civilian courts as well as give parliament a say in appointing judges. It also allowed public servants the right to collective agreement and the right to strike, and ended immunity from prosecution for 1980 military coup leaders.




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