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Judges and their Allies: The Synergy between the Constitutional Court and Judicial Support Networks in Turkey


Authoritarian regimes create and empower courts in anticipation of various regime-supporting functions of courts such as sidelining political opponents and establishing legitimacy for the government. Recently, however, many courts in authoritarian regimes around the globe have defied their expected roles as regime-supporting pawns, and instead began to challenge the interests of their creators. The Constitutional Court of Turkey (CCT) testifies to such trend. As Turkey gradually evolved to an authoritarian state under Erdoğan’s rule, the CCT has been on the front line in the battle against the Erdoğan government in moderating state power, especially from 2010 to 2014 when the government threatened individual rights and independence of the judiciary. However, the battle between the Court and the government was short-lived when the Court suddenly changed its behavior and remained acquiescent to the government since 2015. What can explain the changes in behavior of the CCT in recent years? What are the sources and conditions that enabled the Court to be active from 2010 to 2014 but passive since 2015? Collecting evidence through academic publications, civil society reports, court cases, and online news articles, this paper finds that the ability of an apex court to engage in conflict with an authoritarian regime depends largely on the mobilization of “judicial support networks,” which are composed of opposition parties, legal professionals and civil society organizations.

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