Turkey Court Partly Annuls Legislation Erdogan Sought to Curb Judges Power

Turkey’s top court annulled parts of a set of constitutional changes designed to curb the powers of judges and prosecutors, reviving political tension between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his secular opponents.

The Constitutional Court made the decision in a meeting today, chief judge Hasim Kilic told reporters in Ankara. The remainder of the articles will be put to a nationwide referendum in September as planned, he said.

Erdogan, who called early elections in 2007 after the court rejected his candidate for president, pushed the changes through parliament in May, testing his authority and reviving an ideological battle with his secular critics. Erdogan’s party has roots in a banned Islamic movement and opposition groups view the judiciary, along with the military, as a bulwark protecting the secular system against the encroachment of religion into politics.

“A period of intense political noise is expected in the aftermath of the verdict,” said Wolfango Piccoli, an analyst of political risk at Eurasia Group in London, said in an e-mailed report to clients today. It’s unlikely the decision will prompt Erdogan to bring forward elections due July next year, he said.

The lira rose 0.1 percent to 1.5535 per dollar at 10:02 p.m. in Istanbul. It dropped as much as 0.5 percent immediately after the decision. The stock and bond markets were closed.

‘Exceeding Powers’

Erdogan has repeatedly said his governing Justice and Development Party won’t call early parliamentary elections and will serve a full term until July next year. The last time the top court challenged Erdogan over the appointment of Abdullah Gul as president, he called an early election to renew his mandate.

By cancelling the articles, the court has “exceeded its powers,” performing functions that are parliament’s domain, Bekir Bozdag, a deputy chief of Erdogan’s party in parliament, said in a telephone interview.

The court’s decision still preserves the aim of the legal changes, which are designed to strengthen the nation’s democracy, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin told NTV news channel in a televised interview. Akif Hamzacebi, a deputy chief of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, said the decision “partly meets” its concerns, in a phone interview.

The ruling limits the type of candidates appointed to an expanded board that oversees the judiciary that the original changes envisaged. It also makes similar curbs on the president for appointing officials to the board and Constitutional Court. The court let articles stand that include making it easier for civil courts to try military officers, widen labor union rights for government workers and steps to protect consumers and personal data.

Erdogan’s supporters say the amendments are necessary to bring Turkey into harmony with European Union standards, enhance democracy and encourage investment in the $660 billion economy, whose expansion under Erdogan has lured companies including Citigroup Inc. and Vodafone Group Plc.

To contact the reporter on this story: Steve Bryant in Ankara on sbryant5@bloomberg.net.

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