Alcohol controversy mounts after Ottoman comparison

Alcohol controversy mounts after Ottoman comparison

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Alcohol controversy mounts after Ottoman comparison

If the bill is approved, education, sports and health institutions will be prevented from selling alcoholic drinks. DAILY NEWS photo

Following a brief introductory debate marked by bickering, Parliament’s Planning and Budget Commission sent a proposal to a sub-commission further restricting the sale and promotion of alcoholic drinks on May 15.

The sub-commission will be able to make amendments to the proposal introduced by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on May 10. 

A heated debate erupted between deputies of the AKP and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), after CHP members compared Isparta deputy Süreyya Sadi Bilgiç and Manisa deputy Recai Berber, who were among the AKP deputies drafting the proposal, to “Murat IV,” an Ottoman sultan who ruled from 1623 to 1640 and is known for his ban on alcohol.

CHP Istanbul deputy Ferit Mevlüt Aslanoğlu’s words sparked the controversy. “I like Recai Berber a lot, so I would be upset if Berber and Bilgiç were called ‘Murat IV.’ I would be upset if they became sultans like Murat IV,” Aslanoğlu said. 

Similarly, the CHP’s Veli Ağbaba suggested the ban would be tantamount to hypocrisy. “Murat IV himself used to drink, he banned it but he himself used to drink secretly,” Ağbaba said. 

The discussion escalated to such a level that Lütfi Elvan, the AKP’s Karaman deputy heading the commission, had to interrupt and suspend the session. 

On May 10, the AKP proposed harsher measures related to alcohol, banning all sorts of advertising and obliging producers to include information about the risks of alcohol on the packaging of every unit. In the event of the measures being infringed, the guilty company will be totally banned from sale.

Alongside this, alcohol producers will no longer be allowed to sponsor cultural festivals, and their brands and logos may also be banned from being displayed at such events. 

If the bill is approved, education, sports and health institutions, as well as establishments next to highways - such as markets and restaurants - will be prevented from selling alcoholic drinks. Sales via automatic vending machines, telephone, and the Internet will also be banned. 

The AKP’s maneuver to send the proposal to the sub-commission indicates that certain amendments are likely to be introduced. The granting of the vendors their vested right based on their currently possessed liquor license is among the changes expected to be made. The proposal on tourism establishments is also to be altered to either remove or soften the ban on vendors who have tourism establishment documents, if not deeming them exceptions.