State of Emergency and State of Lawlessness: Turkey’s Contemporary Political Predicament

Lecture | April 12 | 12:30-2 p.m. | 340 Stephens Hall

 Hüseyin Levent Köker

 Center for Middle Eastern Studies

A substantially significant aspect of constitutionalism is to limit state power even under states of emergencies. Accordingly, “emergency rule” under constitutionalism is not “exceptional”, “extralegal”, therefore “unlimited” form of rule. Turkey, with its relatively long albeit troubled tradition of constitutional government is no exception. Thus, according to the Turkish Constitution (1982), there are constitutional-legal limits on what the government can and cannot do in a state of emergency, and these limits have been relatively explicitly endorsed by constitutional and administrative jurisprudence. Be that as it may, however, current “emergency rule” practiced since July 21, 2016 has been marked by utterly grave violations of law, causing “state of emergency” to become a “state of lawlessness”, and it is no prophecy to see that such an arbitrary rule cannot be sustained for longer periods of time. Hence the question: After the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2019, when the constitutional amendments of 2017 take effect, will Turkey have a chance to return to a constitutional government? This lecture tries to discuss possible answers to this in three parts. First, it will try to show how a state of emergency has become a state of lawlessness. Second, it is argued that 2017 Constitutional amendments creating a so-called “executive presidentialism” is not promising for a restoration of rule of law. Finally, the lecture wishes to address the search for an alternative way of reconstituting a state respecting rule of law in Turkey.

Hüseyin Levent Köker, is a Keyman Modern Turkish Studies Program research associate in Northwestern University's Buffett Institute for Global Studies and a visiting professor in the Department of Political Science. He is a graduate of Ankara Law School and holds a PhD in political science. He was previously Hans Speier Visiting Professor in the New School for Social Research. Currently working on a critical re-interpretation of constitutional politics in Turkey, Köker’s research interests include constitution-making and post-national constitutionalism, democratic political theory, secularism, nationalism, multiculturalism, and cosmopolitanism. His publications include Modernization, Kemalism and Democracy (2009), Two Different Conceptions of Politics (2008), and Democracy, Critique, and Turkey (2008)., 510-642-8208