TURKEY >Politics infected by match-fixing scandal

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President Gül’s veto on a law reducing penalties for match fixers has driven a wedge between himself and Parliament while also dividing MPs of ruling party

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Abdullah Gül. REUTERS photo

Abdullah Gül. REUTERS photo

    Serkan DemirtaşSerkan Demirtaşserkan.demirtas@hdn.com.tr

    President Gül’s veto on a law reducing penalties for match fixers has driven a wedge between himself and Parliament while also dividing MPs of ruling party
    A heated debate over an ongoing rigging scandal has engulfed Turkish politics with rifts beginning to emerge between the president and Parliament and within the ruling party on a law reducing penalties for match fixers.
    President Abdullah Gül yesterday accused Parliament of not sufficiently working on the bill and strongly defended his veto on the law, which would have negated an earlier regulation stipulating harsh punishments against those who corrupt Turkish football. “I have realized an imbalance between the crime and the punishment. I have also seen that this law negated the deterrent effect [in match fixing],” Gül told reporters yesterday on the sidelines of a ceremony held at the Presidency.
    The bill was vetoed in a rare move by Gül, who was elected as president in 2007 from the ranks of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Provisions in the existing law on violence in sports led to the launch of the match-fixing probe, resulting in a total of 31 football figures being jailed pending trial. If the amendments to the law had been accepted, the jail sentence of five to 12 years would have been reduced to between just one and three years.
    Gül received an unusual reaction from Mustafa Elitaş, an AKP deputy parliamentary group leader and a native of the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri, which is also the president’s hometown.
    “We do respect our president’s reasoning of his veto on the law. We are respectful of the president’s will but in this case, Parliament’s will comes to the forefront,” Elitaş told reporters yesterday.
    Elitaş called all parties who signed the law to stand behind their signature. All parties, except for the Peace and Development Party (BDP), voted in favor of the law. “If we have signed the law altogether, then we should be able to stand behind it. It would be wrong for parties to withdraw their signatures now,” he said.
    Top members of the AKP brass have already held meetings behind doors to find a way to solve the problem, according to information gathered by the Hürriyet Daily News. The first option is to resend the law without any amendments, given that the president has no right to veto the same law a second time. The second option is to send the law to the parliamentary commission. In either case, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s view will be decisive.
    “I do not think it will be resent to the Presidency,” a senior government official said yesterday. “But, this all depends on how our prime minister evaluates the situation.”
    The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy parliamentary group leader Muharrem İnce said he found Gül’s veto dubious. “I am really surprised,” İnce said yesterday. “The president has not vetoed many laws that the AKP has passed thanks to their majority [in Parliament]. Did [Gül] just remember his presidential duty? Is he playing the hero now?”


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