The legal system of Turkey is a complex and dynamic structure that has evolved over decades, influenced by various legal traditions.
This article delves into the constitutional structure, key aspects of the legal system, recent constitutional amendments, and the sources of law in Turkey.
The legal system of Turkey : Constitutional Structure
Turkey has operated as a multi-party system for over 76 years. The initial constitution was adopted in 1924, with the current one dating back to 1982. While Turkey initially drew inspiration from legal codes of Switzerland, France, and Italy, it has recently made significant amendments, aligning itself with European Union accession requirements.
The Turkish constitutional framework is rooted in the separation of powers. It comprises a single legislative body, the Parliament, an executive branch headed by the President, and an independent judiciary featuring civil, criminal, and administrative courts.
Turkey’s legislative power rests with the Parliament, consisting of 600 members. A closed-list electoral system is in place, where voters choose political parties rather than individual candidates. Seats are allocated proportionally to parties garnering 10 percent or more of the national vote, and members serve five-year, renewable terms. The Parliament holds authority over law adoption, budget discussions, currency issuance, international treaty ratification, and declarations of war.
The executive branch is embodied by the Presidency, with the President directly elected for a five-year term, eligible for re-election once. The President can veto legislation, which the Parliament can override with a simple majority vote.
The Turkish judiciary is an independent entity, composed of general courts (covering civil, commercial, criminal, labor, and family matters) and administrative courts. These encompass courts of first instance, appellate courts, and high courts. The High Court of Appeals handles general jurisdiction, while the Council of State presides over administrative matters. The Constitutional Court of Turkey is the highest authority for constitutional review.
Turkish courts focus on fact-finding and applying relevant legal provisions to these facts. Judges may establish rules when statutes don’t apply, but this is rarely employed, particularly in criminal cases. Precedents offer non-binding guidance, though decisions of the High Court of Appeals and Council of State addressing legal conflicts serve as binding precedents.
Constitutional Amendments of 2017
In 2017, constitutional amendments introduced a significant shift in Turkey’s governmental system, replacing the dual-structured executive branch with a presidential system. These amendments expanded executive powers, consolidating them under the President’s office. The President gained authority to issue presidential decrees, propose budgets, and more. The Council of Ministers was abolished, and Parliament’s power to appoint or dismiss executive officers was curtailed.
Sources of Law
Turkey operates as a civil law jurisdiction, relying on comprehensive legal codes. International treaties ratified by the Parliament hold legal weight, becoming effective upon the enactment of corresponding laws.
The legal hierarchy in Turkey follows this order:
Turkey’s fundamental laws encompass various codes, including:
Code of Obligations
Administrative law (regulating governmental functions)
Additionally, non-sectoral and sectoral laws, such as competition and environmental regulations, are essential in the business landscape. Regulatory bodies like the BDDK, Capital Markets Board, EPDK, and the Competition Authority oversee various sectors independently, shaping Turkey’s legal environment.
In summary, legal system of Turkey is characterized by its constitutional structure, recent constitutional changes, and the diverse sources of law that shape the country’s legal landscape. This system, influenced by both European and continental legal traditions, plays a crucial role in Turkey’s domestic and international affairs.