Professor Pünder visits partner university in Turkey

"Without the rule of law there can be no democracy."

"Democracy is like a train - one mounts it to get to a destination and alights when one arrives." The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, supposedly said this at the beginning of his political career. But now Erdoğan believes that the time is ripe for alighting. This is what Professor Hermann Pünder, Chair of Public law, Public administration and Comparative Law at Bucerius Law School, realized during his trip to Turkey where he taught classes as a visiting professor at Bilgi University in Istanbul, a Bucerius partner university.

Law students and constitutional law experts in dialogue

Pünder taught in various courses on the development of German constitutional law in response to the failure of the Weimar Republic and the Nazi dictatorship. He was hosted by constitutional law expert, Bertan Tokuzlu, who spent the summer of 2014 as a researcher at the Bucerius Law School. German constitutional law is committed to a "militant democracy " but whether the Turkish constitutional legal order will withstand the current threats, is more than questionable.

The concerned questions asked by the students demonstrated just how aware they are of the dangers the current situation poses - Just how is freedom of speech protected in Germany? To what extent does federalism offer protection to minorities? How is the independence of justice protected? Do politicians abide by the decisions of the Constitutional Court, even if they are of different opinion? Would a 10 % election threshold, that currently exists in Turkey, be constitutionally viable in Germany? There is little doubt: Most Turks stand behind their president. However, democracy is more than majority rule. Without the rule of law there is no democracy.

Partnership more important than ever before

For constitutional experts the situation is particularly precarious, with some even thinking of emigrating. Turkey is being currently shaken by violent crises but is it on the verge of a civil war? Full of compassion and sympathy Pünder left the metropolis on the Bosporus, which is such a wonderful mix of the orient and occident, of religiousness and secularism, of medievalism and modernity, to return to Germany. He was deeply shaken, when a few days after his departure a suicide bomber of the " Islamic State "attacked an area on Istiklal Avenue in the main shopping street of the Bohemian Beyoğlu district, very close to a cafe where he spent a lot of time. Five people were killed and countless others injured. It is feared that Erdoğan will use terror as a pretext for further repression. Pünders message is: We have to support those in Turkey who are committed to peaceful co-existence. Our partnership with Bilgi University is now more important than ever before.