Members of Turkey’s Constitutional Court (AYM) voted to re-elect Zühtü Arslan as the top court’s president on Thursday.
Arslan was elected defeating İrfan Fidan, who was appointed to his current position as one of AYM’s 15 judges by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and joined the race shortly before the election date, reportedly upon Erdoğan’s suggestion.
Even some of the members with ties to Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) were not happy with Fidan’s candidacy, Deutsche Welle Turkish reported at the time, as he lacks experience. The judge had announced his wish to run for AYM membership on 1 December 2020, a mere four days after he joined Turkey’s Court of Cassation, and was appointed by Erdoğan on 23 January 2021.
When judges close to the AKP and Erdoğan couldn’t agree on Fidan, a high-level official from the Justice Ministry allegedly called the AYM members individually to convince them to vote for Fidan, according to Deutsche Welle.
Arslan’s record shows a tendency to vote in opposition to the government’s position on cases at the AYM, while 10 of the 15 judges usually vote in line with Erdoğan.
The newly re-elected AYM president will preside over important political cases in the country, starting with the case to shut down Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) over alleged ties to terrorism. The court recently ruled to block HDP’s access to Treasury accounts that held the state aid allocated to the party that wins some 12 percent of the vote, making it the second largest opposition bloc in the country, and will hear a defence from the HDP on March 14.
Erdoğan is said to be concerned about the AYM because the decision against the HDP passed by a very tight margin of eight votes against seven.