Parliament approves three more articles amid heated brawl
Turkey’s parliament approved three more articles from an 18-article constitutional amendment package to shift the current parliamentary system to an executive presidency amid a fierce brawl in parliament that left deputies injured and damaged the hall.
The third, fourth and fifth articles of the constitutional amendment package, which include moves to reduce the age of candidacy in presidential elections, passed with over 341 votes in late night sessions on Jan. 11 and 12, while main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmakers’ staunch criticism and their attempt to occupy the parliamentary chair led to fury among lawmakers.
The vote to reduce the age of candidacy from 25 to 18 was the first motion that was passed, with the attendance of 485 lawmakers, of which 341 approved and 139 opposed the motion.
The fourth article, which increases the parliament’s term from four years to five and regulates the presidential election procedure, according to which members of parliament and the president will be elected on the same day, was passed with 343 affirmations and 139 rejections. The fifth article regulating the duties and authorities of the parliament was accepted by 343 votes with seven rejections.
‘Secret ballot’ arguments
Tension in parliament mounted once again after opposition lawmakers criticized ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies for violating the principles of a “secret ballot,” which was seen as an effort to exert pressure on other lawmakers who might be considering voting against the package during the third motion.
During the row, CHP lawmakers, who were trying to video AKP lawmakers casting their ballots, faced fury from AKP lawmakers, who blocked opposition members from watching the process. The two sides’ altercation eventually led to a fistfight.
CHP Kocaeli lawmaker Fatma Kaplan said she was physically injured by an AKP lawmaker as he tried to confiscate her recording devices to stop her from videoing the sessions.
The voting had to be repeated due to the fight.
CHP occupies parliament chair
During discussions on the fifth article of the constitutional amendment, which permits the regulation of duties and responsibilities of the parliament, the ruling party and opposition party’s lawmakers engaged in another brawl, leading to injuries after CHP lawmakers occupied the parliament’s chair in protest at the article.
“The authority you permit today will bring about the end of this country. You [lawmakers] are trying to destroy yourself [parliament] without anyone seeing. We will not allow this,” Özgür Özel, CHP’s group deputy chairperson, said early Jan. 12, repeating the CHP’s early criticisms that the vote on such an important article be cast late at night when the public cannot be informed.
“We are taking the chair under our protection in order to ensure the fulfillment of the duty of defending the people’s chair, in order to tell the people and ensure that this article will be discussed in parliament, while looking into the eyes of the people. We are protecting the people’s chair from you,” Özel said.
Following Özel’s statement, CHP lawmakers approached the chair with applause from the crowd and surrounded the chair arm-in-arm. The CHP’s attempt to occupy the chair caused outrage among AKP lawmakers, who also walked to the chair in attempt to oust the CHP lawmakers from the podium. The sides’ altercation transformed into a fistfight, which resulted in injuries to lawmakers while damaging the parliament’s furniture.
Following the physical brawl, the parliament’s speaker rushed the process by refusing to permit questions and rejected proposals from lawmakers, which prompted more criticism from CHP lawmakers.
Meanwhile, Mustafa Elitaş, the AKP deputy group chairperson, criticized the CHP lawmakers for occupying the chair.
“We have faced such behavior from the CHP that we could never have imagined, guessed or thought they would do. Our deputy leader Fatih Şahin’s nose was broken and it has been stated that one of our lawmakers was bitten in the leg,” Elitaş said.
“The opposition should be respectful. Today they have lost their respectability,” he added.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli also commented on the fights in parliament.
“This tension must be soothed. We need to avoid abusive clauses. I followed the brawl carefully. There will be more important articles that will be discussed in the future. We need to be more careful while discussing these articles. Objectionable situations may arise. The ruling party and the opposition must be sincere,” Bahçeli told reporters in parliament during discussions on the third article on Jan. 11.