Will Turkey reinstate the death penalty

Turkish authorities plan to raise the issue of accession to the European Union at the referendum, as well as raise the issue of reinstating the death penalty, the cancellation of which was one of the results of Ankara's plans on accession to the EU. In an article "A nightmare scenario for Turkey", Hurrieyt Daily News writes that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) may submit a proposal to parliament to reinstate the death penalty. This can either be done by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim after repeated demands by President Tayyip Erdogan, or it can be initiated by Erdogan himself after rejoining the AK Parti, as enabled by the April 16 referendum. After all, Erdogan has been raising this issue since the foiled military coup attempt of July 15, 2016, which is believed to have been masterminded by his former ally, the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli has also been asking the government to take this step with his support, and MHP dissidents are likely to support it as well. Bahçeli’s motivation in bringing back the death penalty is largely to apply it against members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Erdoğan has already started to put pressure on the social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who said recently that he would consider the government proposal once it is submitted to parliament.

The Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is likely to stand against bringing back the death penalty.  If the CHP backs the move, taking the risk of alienating many of its supporters, the bill would be accepted by parliament. Even if it is not accepted by parliament, it could be put to a public vote by Erdoğan. Such a referendum would distract attention from mounting economic problems at the expense of Erdoğan securing his annual vote of confidence from the people. And the end result would have serious consequences.

If bringing back the death penalty is approved by parliament or by the people, it is likely that the European Union will cut all political relations with Turkey. For Erdoğan, that would strike two birds with one stone: It will be the EU, not Turkey, that finally cuts relations, meaning that Erdoğan no longer feels restrained by European legal and democratic standards.

Some European politicians will perhaps be cheered by such a development, thinking they have finally gotten rid of the Turks. But let’s hope they do not end up seeing the chaos of the Middle East come to their borders, instead of the borders of Turkey, before it is too late.

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