In a move that intensifies the judicial rift in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has unequivocally supported the Court of Cassation’s defiance against the Constitutional Court (AYM). “The Constitutional Court has made a series of mistakes, which is seriously concerning,” Erdoğan stated.
The controversy centres around the Court of Cassation’s refusal to comply with the AYM’s ruling to release Can Atalay, an MP from the opposition Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP). By challenging the Constitutional Court’s decision and initiating criminal complaints against its members, the Court of Cassation has stepped into a domain typically reserved for the AYM.
President Erdoğan’s endorsement of the Court of Cassation’s actions underscores a potential executive overreach into the Constitutional Court’s purview. Criticising party members who have supported the AYM, Erdoğan expressed his concern about the Constitutional Court’s series of decisions. “First and foremost, no one can deny that the Court of Cassation is a high court. … At this point, the decision taken by the Court of Cassation cannot be disregarded or pushed aside. The Court of Cassation now says, ‘If you are a high court, so am I, and as a high court, I am also demanding a sanction against you.’ It awaits the fulfilment of this demand, and the authority responsible for fulfilling it must respond to this request,” he stated, highlighting a contentious understanding of the Court of Cassation’s role vis-à-vis the AYM.
Erdoğan continued: “Put Can Atalay aside for a moment. Unfortunately, similar things have happened before. Our Parliament also acts slowly on these matters. Many terrorists escaped abroad due to the delayed process of lifting immunities in Parliament. These issues should not be taken so lightly. Decisions must be made swiftly. When these steps are not taken promptly, you then find someone in America, another in Germany, another appears in France. Then they start threatening Turkey from there. My country should not and cannot be subject to threats from degenerates who have fled abroad. The Constitutional Court should not and cannot take lightly the step taken by the Court of Cassation. If some of my party colleagues are disparaging the Court of Cassation and praising the Constitutional Court, they are also mistaken. We must act with the principle of ‘one for all, all for one’. There is no point in trying to appear favourable to some people.”
This stance is further supported by presidential advisors Mehmet Uçum and Ayhan Ogan, along with the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) Feti Yıldız, who have criticised the AYM for allegedly exceeding its mandate.
The Court of Cassation’s refusal to adhere to the AYM’s ruling not only fuels legal debates but also raises profound concerns about judicial independence in Turkey. The current situation, where the functions and jurisdictions of the Constitutional Court and the Court of Cassation are being contested at the highest levels of government, signals a significant moment in the country’s legal history.
As the executive branch – which is supposed to operate within the limits set by the constitution – doubles down on its attempts to weaken or bypass the very body that ensures those limits are respected, the unfolding events mark an extraordinary episode in Turkey’s governance, with potential ramifications for the separation of powers that underpins democratic systems. Observers within and outside of Turkey continue to monitor the situation closely, as the resolution of this dispute will be a determinant of the judiciary’s autonomy and the country’s democratic integrity.