CHP pledges not to curtail AKP’s proposal to lift immunity

CHP pledges not to curtail AKP’s proposal to lift immunity

Bülent Sarıoğlu - ANKARA
CHP pledges not to curtail AKP’s proposal to lift immunity

AA photo

Turkey’s main opposition party will lend support to a government proposal on a provisional change in the constitution that would allow parliament to lift the immunities of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers and others for one time only.

Although it affirmed that it was against the constitution, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) will not obstruct the proposal, deputy parliamentary group chair Engin Altay said April 13.

The CHP will exert efforts during debates to amend the proposal in a way that would extend to former Justice and Development Party (AKP) ministers Egemen Bağış, Zafer Çağlayan, Muammer Güler and Erdoğan Bayraktar, who were the subject of fraud and corruption allegations in December 2013.

“However, in principle, we do not approve immunities. And when the proposal comes to the plenary floor, be that as it may be flawed, wrong and insufficient, I don’t believe that the CHP would take a stance saying ‘No, don’t let this be lifted, lift if it is like this and don’t lift it if it is like that,” Altay told reporters in parliament.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu targeted the CHP for not lending support to their proposal to parliament to remove MPs’ immunity from prosecution, suggesting that the CHP had actually been worried that the flaws of their deputies would be revealed.

“We haven’t seen hide nor hair of the CHP which kept the public busy with the issue of immunity for days, even years,” Davutoğlu said, while delivering a speech at a symposium on local governance hosted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara.

The CHP has been “worried, scared and shy about” having its own deputies being tried before justice, he said.

“Why does [CHP leader Kemal] Kılıçdaroğlu, who has been busy with unmentionable insults since days, not broach the immunity subject instead of moving toward setting a record of discourtesy? Are you shy about having also your own summaries of proceedings passed to the judiciary?” Davutoğlu said.

“We have moved to bring deputies, who have turned the grand parliament into an armory for terror, before justice,” Davutoğlu said, in an apparent reference to allegations about deputies of the HDP, which both the AKP government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accuse of being a political front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“However, the Republican People’s Party hasn’t lent support to our proposal in order to use those deputies, who have become spokespersons for terror, as a shield for themselves,” he said.

‘Parliament in the offing: An offshoot of The Palace’

Meanwhile, the number of the files of summaries of proceedings at parliament reached to 567 as of April 13, with five more files, including one against HDP co-leader Figen Yüksekdağ, being referred to the Parliament Speaker’s Office.

“We actually know this from history. This is the same as the method of abolishing parliament which was resorted to during the Hitler era,” HDP deputy parliamentary group chair İdris Baluken said.

“They are exerting efforts to implement the practices of Nazi Germany and the Hitler era on a lot of issues, including the stripping of citizenship,” Baluken said, adding that the government had been acting upon “the Palace’s” wishes with the constitutional amendment which he said in itself amounted to “a coup law,” referring to Erdoğan with the word “the Palace.”

“If the drafted temporary constitutional amendment goes into force, it will result in parliament being taken hostage by the Palace. After that, the parliament will become an offshoot of the Palace,” he said. 

Minor change, extended scope

According to the AKP’s proposal, a provision of Article 83 of the constitution, which states, “A deputy who is alleged to have committed an offence before or after election shall not be detained, interrogated, arrested or tried unless the General Assembly decides otherwise,” will not be applied to dossiers regarding parliament members currently filed. 

Accordingly, all the files of summaries of proceedings waiting in parliament’s Joint Constitution and Justice Commission, the Parliament Speaker’s Office, the Prime Ministry and the Justice Ministry will be returned to the Prime Minister’s Office within 15 days after the amendment goes into force in order to be sent to the judicial authorities.

However, the final version of the proposal signed by 316 AKP deputies was altered slightly. Accordingly, files that have been sent from supreme boards that are authorized to launch investigations, such as the Supreme Election Board (YSK), were also included in the proposal’s scope.

If the proposal is adopted, according to current 567 files, 129 from all four political parties will be tried. Of those 129 deputies, 51 are from the CHP, 45 from the HDP, 25 from the AKP and seven from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The proposal is expected to be debated before the Joint Constitution and Justice Commission next week and then to be referred to the plenary floor immediately.

In the Nov. 1, 2015, election the AKP secured 317 seats in the 550-member parliament. For a constitutional change in parliament, a party needs to win 367 seats, although 330 are enough to take a constitutional change to a referendum.