View the Country Report for Turkey in the Oxford Compendium of National Legal Responses to Covid-19
The Covid-19 pandemic has worked as a catalyst in revealing the problems and effectivity of the new governmental system in Turkey, which entered into force through the 2017 referendum. This constitutional amendment, which dates back from approximately three years before the Covid-19 crisis hit Turkey, turned the country from a parliamentary system into a presidential system, without mechanisms of checks and balances. Defenders of the amendment and the governing party had promised stability, a powerful executive, and consequently a swift decision-making process through this amendment. These promises largely held true during the Covid-19 pandemic. Decisions and circulars of the executive were the central legal instruments used in the Covid-19 response, while laws were rarely enacted by the Parliament. Consequently, Covid-19 measures were taken rather swiftly. The first curfew decision, which was announced by the Ministry of Interior 15 minutes before the measure took effect, is an important example. This swift response and the powerful health sector were applauded internationally. The general health insurance and measures such as those taken in elder care facilities were especially appreciated.
However, the Covid-19 response also attracted criticism and caused political debate. The Minister of Interior submitted his resignation due to the increasing criticisms following the first curfew decision. There was an incident of misinforming the public concerning the Covid-19 statistics that were disclosed. The fact that decisions of the Covid-19 Scientific Advisory Board were not published raised concerns on transparency. Furthermore, several measures, such as postponement of the elections of bar associations, gatherings, and assemblies of civil society; bans on assemblies and demonstrations on a provincial level; restriction on the sale of certain products, especially that of alcohol sales, incurred criticism and resulted in heated political debate. Although the Parliament continued to meet during the pandemic, it did not exercise ongoing oversight over the regulations, circulars, and legal instruments used for the Covid-19 response of the executive. The role and effect of the Ombudsman Institution and the Human Rights and Equality Institution in overseeing the Covid-19 response is not expressly known. Thus, the announcements of the executive were the central method for obtaining information on the Covid-19 measures. However, it proved difficult to obtain official information on measures concerning some groups, such as non-citizens and ethnic minorities.