AKP and president at crossroads on rigging

AKP and president at crossroads on rigging

Hüseyin Hayatsever - ANKARA
AKP and president at crossroads on rigging

DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Turkey’s president and government appear headed for a collision over a controversial bill reducing penalties for match fixers, as the ruling party has openly ignored President Abdullah Gül’s advice to find a balance between the crime and punishment.

Parliament will discuss the bill at the Justice Commission tomorrow and will likely vote on it Dec. 11 in an obvious challenge to Gül, who vetoed the legislation late last week on the grounds that it hurt the people’s conscience.

Opposition parties stood behind the Justice and Development Party (AKP) on the matter, arguing that it was protecting the will of the Parliament, but some observers speculated that their stance stemmed from a desire to drive a wedge between Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“We are in favor of resending the bill without any changes to the Presidency. There is nothing for us to change concerning this bill,” Nurettin Canikli, a deputy parliamentary group leader of the AKP, told reporters yesterday.

“We have no indication that our president would take the bill to the Constitutional Court,” he said, hinting that they expected the president to approve it.

The Hürriyet Daily News has learned that Canikli’s statement came only after he consulted with Erdoğan, who is recovering after a serious surgery. Erdoğan also met with deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and Sports Minister Suat Kılıç in recent days to discuss the developments.

Parliament’s three biggest parties approved the bill reducing penalties for match fixers in the wake of a probe that was launched in July and resulted in a total of 31 football figures being jailed pending trial. If the amendments to the law had been accepted, jail sentences of five to 12 years for rigging matches would have been reduced to one to three years. Gül’s veto inflamed a political debate in the capital, causing a deep rift between the president and his former political party for the first time.

Erdoğan, who has been resting since Nov. 26, favored Parliament’s stance on the law, according to the AKP’s deputy group chairmen, the Daily News has learned.
CHP and MHP back the AKP

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) also said they would join the AKP in resending the law without any amendments.

CHP deputy chairwoman Emine Ülker Tarhan said there was an imbalance between the crime and the punishment according to the current law. “There may be an 18-year sentence due to a sports-related crime, which is against the public conscience. I’m standing behind my signature.”

MHP chairman Devlet Bahçeli also said they would support the bill if it were brought to Parliament again. “We can’t accept the national will to be weakened. We expect the same determination and approach from other parties. The AKP and the main opposition party should remain faithful to their decision as well,” he said at his party’s group meeting at Parliament.

Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Chairman Selahattin Demirtaş, however, announced plans to oppose a reduction in the penalties for match fixers.

The BDP will vote against the bill if it is brought to the General Assembly, Demirtaş said.