(Reuters) - Turkey’s parliament rejected Monday a constitutional amendment to make it harder to ban political parties, in a surprise blow to the Islamist-rooted AK Party government and its plans to reform the constitution.
European Union candidate Turkey has a long history of banning political parties which it deems a threat, and even came close to banning the ruling AK Party in 2008.
It has banned almost 20 parties since the adoption of a military-inspired constitution in 1982, two years after a military coup. Pro-Kurdish and Islamist-leaning parties have been a particular focus of its attention but members of banned parties have typically regrouped under a new name.
The Political Parties Act has been criticized by Brussels.
Here are details of some major party closure cases.
1992 - Socialist Party — The Constitutional Court ordered the closure of the Socialist Party, accused of acting against the integrity of the country. It also ordered the party’s assets transferred to the Treasury.
1993 - People’s Labor Party (HEP) — The constitutional court banned the pro-Kurdish HEP, and ordered four of its deputies to leave parliament. The court found some of the speeches by HEP’s former leader Fehmi Isiklar and actions of the party itself violated Turkey’s constitution. At the time HEP had 16 deputies in parliament.
1998 - Islamist Welfare Party (RP) — The party was banned in January of 1998 and its leader and former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan and other key members were banned from holding political posts for five years. A nascent Islam-based group, the Virtue Party rapidly attracted deputies from Welfare.
2001 - Virtue Party FP — The Islam-based group and the main opposition party with 102 of 550 seats was shut down on charges it was a hotbed of Islamist and anti-secular activities. The court expelled two members from parliament and imposed political bans on five more.
2003 - People’s Democracy Party (HADEP) — The court outlawed HADEP ruling it had close links to Kurdish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels.
2008 - AK Party — The court narrowly rejected a case to shut down the ruling party, in power since 2002, but found it guilty of anti-secular activities and imposed financial penalties.
2009 - DTP party — The Democratic Society party (DTP) became the sixth Kurdish party to be banned by Turkey, which has been locked in a 25-year conflict with separatist Kurdish rebels. The Constitutional Court banned the DTP on December 11 because of its links with the PKK. The court ban on the DTP sparked days of unrest in the southeast of Turkey.
— The ruling was opposed by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who had launched moves to boost Kurdish rights in a bid to end a 25-year-old ethnic conflict that has cost some 40,000 lives.