It Was Not Only the Turkish Bar Chairman Who Lost

TBB’s former chair Metin Feyzioğlu was known as a name who has shifted his position from Erdoğan opposition to Erdoğan supporter. In the photo he is shaking hands with the president while President’s Chief Legal Advisor Mehmet Uçum was looking behind. (Photo: Birgün)

Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) elected Erinç Sağkan as its new president in December 5 elections. He was running against Metin Feyzioğlu who had been elected as the head of the top legal association while he was against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and became a strong supporter of him along the way.

Sağkan received 182 votes out of 348 delegates, while Feyzioğlu could receive 156.

The election was held under extremely unfair conditions. Every political measure was taken to ensure Feyzioğlu’s position, who had Erdoğan’s support. Thanks to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its “People’s Alliance” partner Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) majority in the parliament, the government altered the legal professional body’s delegate structure and election method. As a result, percentage of delegates from the provinces with a large population and a high number of lawyers were unfairly decreased. In contrast, the percentage of delegates from cities with a small population is increased. For example, there are only 42 lawyers registered to Bayburt Bar Association, but they have 4 delegates to represent the city in the association. Whereas, Istanbul Bar Association has 47,000 members, but only 13 delegates represent the city. Government also paved a way for establishment of multiple bar associations with an amendment in the lawyers act, arguing that it would create a more democratic environment, but in reality, it sought putting pressures on lawyers. However, it did not hold up well. Only Istanbul lawyers formed up an association.

All those efforts to keep Feyzioğlu at his chair as the head of TBB is like a miniature model for upcoming Presidential and Parliamentary elections, as the ruling alliance is working on changing the election law to ensure their position.

The importance of the association comes from its organizational ability. Under the Attorney’s Law, TBB is defined as a “non profit making legal entity in the form of a public professional organization.” In addition to its contribution to legal profession the association is also charged with strengthening and protecting the concepts of the rule of law and human rights.

It wasn’t just the green passport

The election in the union was delayed because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Feyzioğlu tried to take advantage of the delay to strengthen his influence by promising the lawyers of granting certain privileges such as special green cover passports.

At the December 5 elections, it became clear that the lawyers’ priority was not to have a special passport.

It was not only Feyzioğlu or who sought to protect their interests by his presidency lost in the elections.

Not all the delegates who voted for Sağkan were pro-Sağkan. But he was in solidarity with his colleagues when they were opposing the regulation that aimed to divide bar associations, while Feyzioğlu was the one who contributed to writing that law.

Erinç Sağkan, 43, was the chair of the Ankara Bar Association (Photo: Twitter)

Just as we will probably witness in the upcoming presidential elections, the lawyers voted to decide if there will be a new era or the old one will continue.

Feyzioğlu and his administration were not the only losers. It was the order that the People’s Alliance wanted to bring on the judiciary and also on the defence has lost. 

The AKP and MHP have been trying to draft new election law for months. But they could only come to an agreement to reduce the election threshold from 10 percent to 7 percent at the request of the MHP. AKP favors a regulation similar to that of Bar Associations regulation, based on population/representation injustice, in a way that the opposition will have the least number of deputies. That scheme does not work for MHP.

Can the same method work for the general elections?

Despite all the efforts, this method did not work in the Bar Association elections.

No good can be achieved by force.

That force also spoiled the game.

By changing the election rules of the TBB, the government wanted to bring the right of defense under its political power. It did not work. Now, they wanted to use the same method to keep their power.

Will it work? Especially in such circumstances when the people are experiencing a severe financial crisis?

It seems that to gain results from the export model that is based on cheap labour, which Erdoğan refers to as the Chinese model, in a way that would change the colour of people’s votes in upcoming presidential elections, depends on political pressure. It necessitates an environment in which the opposition and the media should be silenced even more.

This is a very risky force. Even if it works, it can be very costly to both the country and the public. Haven’t we seen enough of this horror movie?

As for Feyzioğlu…

It would probably not surprise anyone if Feyzioğlu will be given a consultancy position with Erdoğan’s signature, or that he will be given a board of directors membership in a state institution. This would be a reward for dividing the TBB. However, the possibility of him being set aside as he is no longer useful should not be underestimated. History is full of examples.

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