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Legal ambiguity becomes the norm in Erdogan’s Turkey

Recent comments by top Turkish officials promoting disregard for some laws has activists, opposition figures and journalists concerned that they alone will be the ones subject to restrictions and regulations, with AKP supporters given leeway.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu delivers a speech during a press conference in Ankara, on April 22, 2019.

On Oct. 26, Turkish Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu gave a speech addressing Turkey's female mukhtars. Mukhtars are elected neighborhood administrators, and there are over 50,000 of them throughout the country. This group generates a significant support network for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). At this gathering, Soylu mentioned their battle against drug dealers and said he gets complaints from authorities who cannot destroy abandoned buildings without court orders, which they say are being used by drug dealers. Advising the mukhtars to destroy the buildings in the middle of the night so “who would know who had done it?” Soylu said, “You demolish those buildings and a court order will follow.” Female mukhtars happily cheered.

In the media, Soylu’s comments about flouting the law raised some red flags among independent journalists, and a small left-wing opposition party brought an official complaint against the minister for inciting the public to commit criminal acts. But Soylu does not need to be afraid: Advocating to ignore the law or to custom design laws according to the AKP’s needs has become the norm in Turkey.

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