Despite the 10% electoral threshold for parliamentary representation, which was found not to violate the freedom of expression by the European Court of Human Rights, Turkey’s 2007 parliamentary elections brought about a more pluralistic representation. However, issues remained. Campaign finance, which remains unregulated by law, is the major loophole. The banning of political parties is still a constitutional weapon threatening democratic political party life. In parallel to restructuring of media ownership in recent years, access to the media by various parties and politicians is limited. Media companies are divided into “proponents” and “opponents” of the incumbent government. Utilization of the right of access to information is not widespread, mainly due to citizens’ lack of information, restrictions on the right itself, and ineffective appeal mechanisms. Several legal reforms have been introduced since 2007. However, human rights violations, with particular reference to freedom of expression for Kurdish groups, torture, privacy violations, domestic violence against women, and discrimination against groups including women, minority sexual orientations, non-Muslims, Roma and asylum seekers have not been effectively eliminated. The parliamentary Human Rights Investigation Committee and some human rights organizations monitor and investigate human rights violations.
Insufficient independence, impartiality, efficiency and personnel are all major issues hampering the functioning of the justice system. There are basically three factors leading to uncertainty in the administration: lack of regulation, a lack of due process, and the presence of unconstitutional regulations adopted by the parliament or issued by the executive authority. It is expected that the Law on Public Financial Management and Control may bring a more consistent administrative process. However, the Constitutional Court’s record of decisions on the one hand, and exemptions of administrative actions such as Supreme Military Council decisions from judicial review on the other, seem to be major concerns. Meanwhile, the new package of constitutional amendments contains changes to the existing composition of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors.
The global finance crisis did not affect the Turkish banking system. But the slowdown in Europe, Turkey’s primary export destination, resulted in a downturn in Turkey’s automotive and textile exports, the country’s two leading export sectors. Compared with 2009, automotive sector exports dropped by 51% and textile industry exports by 33% .
There are no conflict-of-interest, code-of-conduct or campaign-financing regulations for politicians. In lights of the recommendations by the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), the OECD Bribery Convention and the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), new laws were passed focusing on the liability of legal persons, the prevention of money laundering, and foreign bribery. A national anti-corruption strategy was issued in January 2010.
The implementation of Law No. 5018 on Public Financial Management and Control requires the public administration to engage in strategic planning, performance programming and activity reporting, aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of public services. However, the public administration lacks the habit of participatory decision-making. The European Union, the UNDP and the World Bank all are engaged in programs designed to develop civil service capacity and help civil society cope with the implementation of EU standards.
Recently, Turkey’s diplomatic capacity was challenged by two new strategies: the stated goal of “zero problems with neighboring countries” and the establishment of closer diplomatic and economic relations with a large number of Muslim countries. In light of recent developments, Turkey is taking on a more prominent regional leadership role. Furthermore, the professionalization or modernization of the Turkish armed forces is another aspect of current discussions. Therefore, Turkey seems to be in a process of defining a clear defense policy, while seeking to eliminate all confusions domestically and internationally.
The Kurdish problem, responsible for 25 years of low-intensity warfare, remains unresolved. Due to the widespread opposition to Turkey’s EU accession in older EU countries, and as a result of strong domestic resistance against further democratization in line with the demands of Brussels, Turkey’s relations with the European Union have cooled.