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Turkey’s top court annuls parts of first presidential decree, citing ‘unconstitutionality’

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Turkey’s Constitutional Court has cancelled parts of the first presidential decree issued following the country’s transition to a presidential system of governance in 2018 on the grounds that they contravene the constitution, the Birgün daily reported.

In a 2017 referendum Turkey approved the transition from a parliamentary system of governance to an executive presidency despite the fact that there were widespread concerns about the separation of powers under the new system. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was elected for a second term in the June 2018 presidential election, became Turkey’s first president under the new system.

Turkey’s current constitution, dating to 1982, limits the scope of presidential decrees due to the organizational structure of the presidency; however, when Turkey switched from a parliamentary to a presidential system in 2018, the president was granted vast powers.

Erdoğan issued the first presidential decree on July 10, 2018, which included reorganization of the structure of the presidency and the ministries and their duties and authorities.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) challenged some articles of the decree on the grounds that they violated fundamental rights granted to citizens by the constitution, claiming that some articles can only be implemented through legislation and not through presidential decrees.

The articles of the decree cancelled by the top court include those making the profiling of public servants possible; the collection and processing of personal data of patients and healthcare workers; and some authorities taken from the municipalities and granted to the ministry of environment concerning citizens’ right to property.

The top court also cancelled an article that granted the environment ministry the right to draft regulations governing professional organizations of engineers and architects and to supervise their activities. The court said such organizations are autonomous, according to the Turkish constitution and that their administration can be determined only by their members through elections.

The top court said these issues fall within the scope of fundamental rights and thus cannot be regulated through a presidential decree.

As he was campaigning for the country’s switch to the presidential system of governance, Erdoğan promised that Turkey would lose no time in pressing ahead with necessary legislation under the new system.

The presidential system gave Erdoğan vast powers while weakening the parliament and leading to accusations of the destruction of the separation of powers.

Erdoğan issues decrees on a wide range of topics including national palaces, the Space Agency, the membership of Turkey’s central bank board and the support of crime victims. Critics says dozens of presidential decrees issued by Erdoğan include more articles than laws approved by parliament.

The Turkish president has long been accused of creating a one-man rule in Turkey, silencing dissent and taking the country’s judiciary and media under his control.

The top court’s ruling comes at a time when Erdoğan has been expressing unease with some of the court’s decisions, which run contrary to the policies of his government.

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