The Republic of Turkey amended its Constitution for the first time in 1924. It retained the basic principles of the 1921 Constitution, most notably the principle of national sovereignty. As in the 1921 Constitution, the Turkish Grand National Assembly was deemed the “sole representative of the nation.” The Constitution of the Republic of Turkey saw further amendments in 1961 that introduced a bicameral Parliament. The Parliament was now to consist of the National Assembly of 450 deputies and the Senate of the Republic comprised of 150 members elected by general ballot and 15 members selected by the President. These two assemblies together would constitute the new Turkish Grand National Assembly under the 1961 Constitution. A third set of amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey was ratified in 1982 pursuant to a national referendum. Turkey is still currently operating under the 1982 Constitution, in which sovereignty is vested fully and unconditionally in the nation.
The Constitution emphasizes that the Turkish state, with its territory and nation, is an indivisible entity, and a secular, democratic, social state under the rule of law. All individuals are equal without any discrimination before the law, irrespective of language, race, skin color, gender, political orientation, philosophical creed, religion, sect, or any such considerations. The 1982 Constitution recognizes all basic human rights and freedoms. These rights and freedoms include the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of residence and movement, freedom of religion and conscience, freedom of thought and opinion, freedom of expression and dissemination of thought, freedom of association, freedom of communication, the right to privacy, the right to property, the right to hold meetings and demonstration marches, the right to legal remedies, guarantee of lawful judgment, and the right to acquire information.
Parliament has ratified many constitutional amendments to make the 1982 Constitution more democratic and to expand democratic rights and freedoms in the country. These efforts gained significant momentum after the EU recognized Turkey as a candidate country in 1999 and later agreed to start full membership talks with Turkey in 2005.
Legislative power is vested in the Turkish Grand National Assembly on behalf of the Turkish nation and this power cannot be delegated. The Turkish Grand National Assembly is composed of 550 deputies, with Parliamentary elections being held every four years. Deputies represent the entire nation and must take an oath before assuming office.
The functions and powers of the Turkish Grand National Assembly include the adoption of draft laws; the amendment and repeal of existing laws; the supervision of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet) and the Ministers; the authorization of the Council of Ministers (by a separate authorization act where the scope and purpose of such authority are clearly set forth) to issue governmental decrees having the force of law on certain matters; the debate and approval of the budget draft and the draft law of final accounts; making decisions on the printing of currency; declaring war, martial law, or emergency rule; ratifying international agreements; making decisions with 3/5 of the Turkish Grand National Assembly on the proclamation of amnesties and pardons in line with the Constitution.
Judicial power in Turkey is exercised by independent courts and high judicial organs on behalf of the Turkish nation. The judicial section of the Constitution is based on the principle of the rule of law. The judiciary is founded on the principles of the independence of the courts and the security of tenure of judges. Judges work independently; they rule on the basis of personal conviction in accordance with constitutional provisions, law, and jurisprudence.
The legislative and executive branches of the Turkish government must comply with the rulings of the courts and cannot change or delay the application of these rulings. Functionally, the Constitution called for a bipartite judicial system that was divided into an administrative judiciary and an ordinary judiciary.
The Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Council of State, the Supreme Military Court, the Supreme Military Administrative Court, and the Court of Jurisdictional Conflicts are the supreme courts stipulated in the judicial section of the Constitution. The Supreme Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors and the Court of Accounts are two additional organizations having special functions that are set out in the judicial section of the Constitution.
The executive branch in Turkey has a dual structure. It is composed of the President of the Republic and the Council of Ministers (Cabinet).
The President of the Republic is the head of state and represents the Republic of Turkey and the unity of the Turkish nation. The President is elected by popular vote among the Turkish Grand National Assembly members who are over 40 years of age and have completed higher education, or among ordinary Turkish citizens who fulfill these requirements and are eligible to be deputies. The President’s term of office is five years and one can be elected for two terms at most.
The President of the Republic has duties and power related to the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, and is responsible for ensuring the implementation of the Constitution and the regular and harmonious functioning of the organs of state.
Prime Minister and Council of Ministers
The Council of Ministers (Cabinet) consists of the Prime Minister, designated by the President of the Republic from members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, and various ministers nominated by the Prime Minister and appointed by the President of the Republic. Ministers can be assigned either from among the deputies or from among those who are not members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly but who are qualified to be elected as a deputy. Ministers can be dismissed from their duties by the President upon the proposal of the Prime Minister when deemed necessary.
The fundamental duty of the Council of Ministers is to formulate and implement the internal and foreign policies of the state. The Council of Ministers is accountable to the Parliament in the execution of this duty.