A year of changes for Turkey with new regulations and laws

Daily life of Turkish public will see both minor and fundamental changes this year as new laws and regulations changing everything from IDs to marriage procedures are set to be implemented by the end of 2016. For drivers and learner drivers, the year starts with a major change in driver licenses. All drivers will be obliged to change their existing licenses with the new ones, which will have the status of international driver license, hence, eliminating the need to apply for new licenses for driving abroad.

More importantly, in a bid to curb traffic accident fatalities and reckless driving, the government will introduce a new regulation to grade licenses in January or in the coming months. Those who obtain new licenses this year will be “intern drivers” for two years and will be issued probationary licenses. Probationary licenses can be revoked if new drivers are fined above the limit of a new scoring system for inexperienced drivers and they will be mandated to attend driving schools again to obtain a new license. The new regulation states that prospective drivers with an IQ level of 79 or below (classified as mental retardation), dementia or those who have a chronic mental disease that alters their thoughts, feelings or behaviors will not be allowed behind the wheel. It also prohibits those with alcohol and drug addiction from obtaining driver licenses and the driver licenses of those who develop these addictions will be revoked. A change of conditions in having a driver license may help Turkey to decrease traffic accidents which claimed more than 3,200 lives in 2015. Reckless driving and drunk driving are among two main causes of the accidents.

A set of new bills expected to be implemented this year also eases bureaucracy for Turkish public, from marriages to notification for moving to a new address.

A new civil law likely to come into force in 2016, cuts off the red tape for rectifying typing errors in IDs which is a painstaking legal procedure involving lawsuits and a court order. Under the new law, citizens will be able to change their IDs by filing a petition to the registry office issuing IDs.

As for IDs, bulky old IDs will be replaced this year with new credit card-sized identities. New IDs come with high security to prevent forgery and a data storage chip which will store fingerprint and other information for every individual. the new IDs will also serve as passports for countries with which Turkey has no visa regime. The IDs will also be integrated into e-government applications and allow citizens to use their e-signatures stored in new IDs in those applications.

Another landmark change in daily life is new powers for muhtars or village and neighborhood headmen. Elected headmen normally tasked with trivial paperwork for residents in their constituency, will be granted authority to officiate marriages originally reserved only to municipalities. Thus, people in remote villages will not have to travel to city centers and towns for marriages. The government also prepares to change passport and driver license procedures and abolish police authority in issuing those two documents. Citizens will be able to obtain their passports and driver licenses from civil registry offices. Turkey will also issue ID numbers for foreigners residing in the country. This ID number will facilitate school admission and bank transactions for foreigners.

A landmark change in terms of telecommuncations is also set to be implemented within the first three months of 2016. Free Internet access for the poor will cater to those living off social aid. The government will offer free but limited Internet connection to poor households as part of a government action plan. Free Internet primarily aims to help the unemployed with job search.

This year, the government will likely implement a much-awaited law to curb the domestic violence and violence targeting women. Tentatively named the “Özgecan bill” after a young woman raped and murdered by the driver of a passenger bus she boarded last year, the law aims to deter the potential perpetrators. It is expected to bring harsh sentences to those convicted of lethal domestic violence and crimes against women. The government will also introduce new practices for rehabilitation of domestic violence perpetrators.