Charter panel to give convicts right to vote

Charter panel to give convicts right to vote

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Charter panel to give convicts right to vote

MHP, led by Devlet Bahçeli, opposes granting voting rights to convicts, discussing the situation of Öcalan. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

With the only objection coming from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), a sub-commission of Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission has embraced the idea of granting convicts the right to vote.

The agreement was struck between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), as the sub-commission responsible for writing the draft articles gathered on May 15.

If this right is eventually granted in the way favored by the three parties, the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, who has been serving a life sentence on an island prison since he was captured in 1999, will also be able to vote.

“Privates and corporals serving in the armed services, students in military schools, and convicts in penal execution excluding those convicted of negligence offences cannot vote,” says article 67 of the current Constitution which covers the right to vote, to be elected and to engage in political activity.

Unanimity needed

The main Constitution Conciliation Commission needs unanimity in order to draft articles. When there is no unanimity, articles are drafted with the red lines of the four parties, in other words, with reservations and in parenthesis.

The sub-commission, however, is able to draft an article on which there is consent from three parties, with a note saying “partial agreement.” Still, the main Commission will have to deal with this article about the right to vote again.

Back in August 2012, during debates on the very same article, the CHP had asked for the writing of a clause stating, “Convicts in penal execution cannot vote, except in cases mentioned by the law.”
However, the main opposition dropped its insistence for such a clause in the May 15 meeting, paving the way for the embracing of the right to vote for convicts.

If a new Constitution is adopted with the above article included in the way drafted by the three parties, convicts including Öcalan will be able to vote in the March 2014 local elections, the August 2014 presidential elections, and the June 2015 parliamentary elections. Objecting to the three parties’ agreement, the MHP argued that such an article could pave the way to granting Öcalan’s right to be elected. “This is unacceptable. Öcalan should be prevented from voting. A clause that states, ‘Those whose rights are limited by courts cannot vote,’ should be included,” MHP deputies said. However, this argument was not accepted by the other parties in the Commission.