Monday, October 20, 2008

Turkish Daily News: "Maintaining Turkey's democracy," by Bruce Fein and Ali Koknar

Monday, October 20, 2008


Democracy is not a suicide pact. No nation is required to be too weak to defend its own democratic dispensation. Accordingly, the Republic of Turkey should not be faulted for its pending initiative through chief prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya to ban the Democratic Society Party, or DTP, before the Constitutional Court featuring all the trappings of due process. According to Yalcinkaya, the DTP is a virtual appendage of the Maoist terrorist organization Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has been responsible for the deaths of a grim 15,000 Turkish civilians and security force members. Most of the PKK's civilian victims are other Kurds who repudiate their assassinations. The DTP openly endorses the PKK's secessionist aims and violent methods.

Banning political parties that aim to sabotage the constitutional order is not anti-democratic. Democracies ranging from Germany to Israel have proscribed parties for celebrating racism or violence. As the U.S. Supreme Court explained in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), the whole purpose of a Constitution is to place certain fundamental values beyond the reach of popularity contests.

But Turkey should not hamstring itself with a Hobson's choice between banning the DTP and doing nothing. Even if legitimate in a democracy, banning a political party jars with the idea of democratic representation, i.e., voters should decide which candidate or party best represents their political interests. Turkey's Constitutional Court displayed statesmanlike creativity in recently refusing to ban the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, but instead imposed a stiff financial penalty for its flirtation with contra-constitutional principles. That precedent suggests that Turkey's parliament should likewise widen the range of legal options for challenging the DTP, informed by the U.S. example, in seeking to cripple or defeat terrorism.

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