Immunity draft at risk of going to referendum

Immunity draft at risk of going to referendum

Nuray Babacan/Bülent Sarıoğlu - ANKARA
Immunity draft at risk of going to referendum

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Turkey’s parliament will hold the second round of vote on a controversial bill on May 20 to strip dozens of deputies of their parliamentary immunity, two days after a first vote that attracted the support of 357 of 550 lawmakers. 

The votes of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) will be decisive on whether the draft will be taken to referendum or be approved in the General Assembly. 

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) lawmakers overwhelmingly voted in favor of the constitutional amendment on lifting the immunities in the first round but 150 lawmakers voted against the measure, preventing it from reaching the required 367 votes. 

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) – which focuses on the Kurdish issue – has said the move is essentially a move to expel its MPs from parliament.

A large majority of CHP lawmakers voted against the move, but around 10 CHP MPs voted in favor of the move.

At the same time, between seven and 10 AKP lawmakers did not support the move.

“The CHP’s nay vote on the removal of the immunities has revealed the solidarity between the HDP and the CHP. The CHP is deceiving the people and lying even while looking into their eyes,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said on his Twitter account on May 18, recalling that CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu had announced that his party would back the motion. 

HDP: AKP’s coup agenda

The HDP regards the issue as “the coup agenda of the ruling party,” rather than an issue related to immunities, said a co-deputy leader of the party, Meral Danış Beştaş.

“The lawmakers will vote on for either ‘democracy or fascism,’ and they will decide on either ‘democracy or one-man rule.’ According to the internal regulations of the parliament, this proposal is meant to be the ‘self-abolition of parliament.’ Those who will say ‘yes’ to the proposal also recognize our righteousness but they say ‘the order comes from high places.’ We will see to what extent they will obey the order,” Beştaş said.

The immunities of some 130 lawmakers will be removed if the bill is approved either in parliament or in a referendum with some of the HDP MPs at risk of being arrested on terror-related charges.

10 more MPs needed to pass bill

With the first vote receiving the backing of 357 MPs, at least 10 more legislators must support the bill, meaning the AKP must find the support from other parties.

The AKP will make Parliamentary Speaker İsmail Kahraman chair the meeting on May 20 so that it will win the vote of the acting parliamentary speaker from the ranks of the AKP who could not vote in the first round, meaning it will have all of its 316 MPs ready to vote. Although the votes of 40 MPs from the MHP would bring the total to 356 – provided there are no lawmakers that break ranks – the motion would still require the support of some CHP lawmakers. In the event that 367 votes cannot be secured, than the draft will be taken to a referendum two months after the results are published in the Official Gazette. 

One scenario being discussed at the AKP suggests the CHP could support it in order to avoid going to a referendum. However, AKP executives have not ruled out the worst-case scenario that the draft could even fail to get the base minimum of 330 votes.