Nine months after its landslide election victory, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) is once again in the midst of a major political struggle with the country’s secular establishment. In March, Turkey’s chief prosecutor petitioned the country’s constitutional court for the closure of the AKP on the grounds of “anti-secular” activities. The chief prosecutor also demanded a ban on political activity for five years of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Abdullah Gul and other senior party figures. The legal fight could last for up to a year and is likely to have a negative impact on already difficult membership negotiations with the European Union. Some commentators have called the case a “judicial coup d’etat” against a democratically elected and widely popular government.
On April 17, the Center on the United States on Europe (CUSE) at Brookings hosted a panel discussion to examine the legal and political dynamics behind the case against the AKP. Speakers included Mustafa Akyol, editor and columnist with the Turkish Daily News; Levent Koker, professor of law at Gazi University in Ankara, Turkey; and Mumtaz Soysal, former foreign minister of Turkey. Brookings Nonresident Fellow and Director of the Turkey Project Omer Taspinar provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion. After the program, the panelists took audience questions.