A tale of two mayors: courts and politics in Iran and Turkey
International Journal of Middle East Studies
Cambridge University Press
253 - 275
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Countries such as Iran and Turkey do not fit comfortably into the democratic and authoritarian categories. In these countries, elections are held regularly, and the will of the people is accepted as one source of sovereignty. At the same time, both constitutionally and in practice the elected officials have to share the exercise of political power with institutions that do not draw their power directly from the will of the people. In such systems, the judiciary has two important political functions. First, the judiciary acts as a politically insulated decision-maker through which the unelected head can exercise some degree of control over the actions of the elected head. Second, the judiciary's direct involvement in the political arena increases political tensions and legitimates the continuation of the two-headed system. In systems based on divided sovereignty, the tensions created by the judicialization of politics contribute to the stability of the regime. The first two sections of the article develop the theoretical framework of the study. I will then look at the constitutional structures of Iran and Turkey and discuss the role assigned to the judiciary in the two systems. The final section examines the politically important court cases of Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan, a former mayor of Istanbul (1994-98), and his Iranian counterpart Gholamhussein Karbaschi, a former mayor of Teheran (1990-98). However, at the outset I should point out that my interest is not in establishing the guilt or innocence of the individuals involved. Rather, I hope that the analysis provided here will shed some light on the role of the judiciary in the politics of countries with two-headed executives. © 2004 Cambridge University Press.