The Turkish Constitutional Court [official website, in Turkish] on Wednesday annulled portions of the government-approved [JURIST report] constitutional amendments [text, in Turkish] aimed at limiting the power of the judiciary and bringing the traditionally-secular military and judiciary under government control. The court declined to annul the entire package of amendments, as requested [JURIST report] by Turkey's opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) [party website, in Turkish], and indicated that the remaining changes can be put to a referendum. The referendum is required because the reform package did not receive the two-thirds majority support in parliament, which was required to enact the law immediately. The remaining amendments will allow civil courts to try military officers [Bloomberg report], and expand labor union rights as well as consumer protections. Proponents of the reforms have insisted they are necessary in order for Turkey to meet the democratic and human rights standards required for admission to the EU. Opponents, however, have argued the reforms are meant to consolidate power [ANSAmed report] and to bring the traditionally secular judiciary and military under control of the government. A spokesperson for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish] expressed frustration with the ruling, stating that the court had exceeded its authority by performing a legislative function. The referendum on the remaining constitutional changes is scheduled for September 12.
Turkey has faced several obstacles as it works toward membership in the EU, including opposition to the constitutional reforms, its human rights record, its stance towards political parties and tension [JURIST news archive] between the AKP and the military. In April, the AKP submitted a revised version [JURIST report] of their proposed amendments, including a proposal to alter Article 157 of the Constitution [text, in Turkish] so that judges of the Military Supreme Administrative Court would have judicial immunity and be shielded from spurious claims. Many of the proposed revisions were criticized [JURIST report] in April by the president of Turkey's Supreme Court [official website, in Turkish], Hasan Gerceker [official profile, in Turkish]. Last year, the Constitutional Court of Turkey voted to ban [JURIST report] the Democratic Society Party (DTP) after finding the party had contacts with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], a separatist, designated terrorist group. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official profile; in Turkish] has sought to end Turkey's 25-year conflict [BBC report] with the PKK, which has been a major impediment to Turkey's bid to join the EU.