The Republic of Turkey adopted its first Constitution in 1924. It retained the basic principles of the 1921 Constitution, 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 second Constitution of the Republic of Turkey was adopted in 1961 and introduced a bicameral Parliament: the National Assembly with 450 deputies and the Senate of the Republic with 150 members elected by general ballot and 15 members elected by the President. These two assemblies constitute the Turkish Grand National Assembly. The third Constitution of the Republic of Turkey was passed in 1982 by a national referendum and is still in effect today. Under the 1982 Constitution, 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 and sect, or any such considerations. The 1982 Constitution recognizes all basic human rights and freedoms such as 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, right to property, right to hold meetings and demonstration marches, right to legal remedies, guarantee of lawful judgment and right to acquire information.
Parliament has passed 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 (TGNA) on behalf of the Turkish nation and this power cannot be delegated. TGNA is composed of 550 deputies, while Parliamentary elections are held every four years. Deputies represent the entire nation and before assuming office, take an oath.
The functions and powers of TGNA comprise the adoption of draft laws, and the amendment and repeal of existing laws; the supervision of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet) and the Ministers; authorization of the Council of Ministers to issue governmental decrees having the force of law on certain matters; debating and approval of the budget draft and the draft law of final accounts, making decisions on the printing of currency, the declaration of war, martial law or emergency rule; ratifying international agreements; making decisions with 3/5 of the TGNA on 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 organs must comply with the rulings of the courts and cannot change or delay the application of these rulings. Functionally, a tripartite judicial system was adopted by the Constitution and accordingly, it was divided into an administrative judiciary, a legal judiciary and a special judiciary.
The Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeals, the Council of State, the Supreme Military Court of Appeals, 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 Supreme Council of Public Accounts are two additional organizations having special functions which 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 TGNA, 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 TGNA 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.