Progress, unity and democracy: dissolving political parties in Turkey
Koğacıoğlu, Dicle (2004) Progress, unity and democracy: dissolving political parties in Turkey. Law & society review, 38 (3). pp. 433-461. ISSN 0023-9216
Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0023-9216.2004.00053.x
In this article, I analyze two cases where the Turkish Constitutional Court dissolved political parties during the 1990s. Specifically, I examine the cases against the Islamist Refah (Welfare/Well-Being) Party and the pro-Kurdish Halkin Emek Partisi (People's Labor Party). While the former was charged with threatening the secular basis of the national social order, the charges against the latter were around its allegedly separatist character. I engage in an in-depth analysis of the lines of argument in the indictments, arguments of defense deployed by the parties, and their ultimate contestations as they appeared in the final decisions by the Court. I see the Court as engaging with a medley of themes and tendencies, [trying to resolve them for the case at hand]. I argue that despite the differences in the construction of the alleged threats, in both cases the Court deployed a similar image of the ways in which social, political, and judicial terrains interact. A rather arbitrary boundary between the political and cultural domains informs these decisions. The Court operates with the understanding that once this boundary is transgressed, what may be harmless when an issue is cultural—such as the use of the headscarf or of the Kurdish language—may turn into a political symbol threatening the basis of the united, democratic, and progressive nation-state. In this vision, the concepts of democracy, progress, and unity are intimately tied together such that the threat to one of these concepts almost simultaneously constitutes a threat to the other two. The Court imagines itself as protecting the boundary between the political and cultural domains in an effort to uphold the right of a democracy to protect itself. This line of thought also enables the court's rather routine involvement in the political domain—which has brought about eighteen decisions for political party dissolution since 1980.
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