Venice Commission: Emergency decree laws obstruct local democracy in Turkey

The Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s (COE) expert body on legal and constitutional affairs,  stated on Friday that Turkey’s emergency decree laws, which were passed in the wake of a failed coup attempt in 2016, go beyond what is permitted by international standards and the Turkish Constitution.

According to a press release from the COE, the opinion was requested by the COE’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, which earlier this year determined that emergency decree no. 674 is incompatible with Turkey’s commitments as a party to the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

“The Venice Commission echoes such criticism, finding ‘particularly worrying’ that emergency legislation permits central authorities to appoint unelected mayors, vice-mayors and members of local councils, and exercise – without judicial oversight – discretionary control over the functioning of the concerned municipalities,” said the COE in the press release.

Furthermore, the new rules under the law introduce changes of a structural nature, not limited to the duration of the state of emergency.

The Venice Commission called on Turkish authorities to take the following steps:

“To repeal provisions introduced by the Decree Law N° 674 which are not strictly necessitated by the state of emergency, in particular concerning the rules enabling the filling of vacancies in the positions of mayor, vice-mayor, local council member, by the way of appointments;

“To ensure that the application of the rules introduced by the Decree Law N° 674 is limited to the duration of the state of emergency, and that any permanent measures affecting local democracy are taken following the ordinary laws and procedures, after proper parliamentary debate;

“To introduce provisions for adequate judicial review of the measures taken by the governorship in municipalities where special powers are instituted in their respect in the context of the fight against terrorism;

“To provide adequate rules and framework for the reinstatement of suspended/dismissed local representatives in case the terrorism-related charges do not lead to a criminal conviction.”

The COE press release also noted that the text of the full opinion as adopted by the Venice Commission will be made available on the Venice Commission website on Monday, Oct. 9. (

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