Irked by 'tipsy youth', Turkish PM defends booze restrictions

Irked by 'tipsy youth', Turkish PM defends booze restrictions

Irked by tipsy youth, Turkish PM defends booze restrictions

Young people are seen enjoying cold beers during an open-air concert in Istanbul. A new code on alcohol bans alcohol use in many places, along with limiting sale hours in retail sector. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stood firm behind a government-led bill tightening the restrictions on the sale and advertising of alcoholic beverages, arguing that drafting such a bill was part of the government’s constitutional responsibility out of consideration for the welfare of the youth.

“We are not banning alcohol in Turkey,” Erdoğan said on May 24, citing the Article 58 of the Constitution which covers the protection of youth. “A state will naturally protect its youth, its people from bad habits. Shall we promote it?” Erdoğan argued that such regulations were not unseen in western countries as well. 

Erdoğan also sketched the picture of the kind of youth they were aiming at, as he underlined that they did not wish to have a drunk, wasted youth. “They should be alert, alive, equipped with knowledge; this is the kind of generation we want. We are taking steps for this,” he added. 

The bill, governing the sale and advertising of alcoholic beverages, cigarettes and drugs, was voted by an open ballot early May 24 in the Parliament around 7 a.m. The opposition parties, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), refused to vote. 

Surprisingly, out of the 327 chairs the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) currently occupies, some 193 deputies voted in favor while four refused, bringing the total number of votes to 197. Despite the timing of the vote, which took place at dawn, the level of participation was far below expectations since the bill was staunchly advocated by the AKP.

Scandinavian example

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ defended the bill, while citing a restriction imposed by CHP-run Kadıköy Municipality of Istanbul for justifying the restrictions within the bill. “[The bill] is carrying the standards concerning alcoholic beverages -- which exist in Europe and America -- to Turkey,” he said
Bozdağ also denies the claims that the rules would hamper the tourism industry. “Moreover, we made a favorable regulation about tourism businesses in this regulation, so that tourism will not be affected by it. It is out of question for tourism businesses to be affected by this,” he affirmed. 

Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu emphasized the health issues saying that alcohol, tobacco and salt were the foremost causes of cancer and that each year 5500 people were killed in traffic accidents due to alcohol consumption, while deeming the view of the alcohol bill as a violation of personal freedom to be “prejudiced.”

CHP’s deputy parliamentary group chair Akif Hamzaçebi nonetheless expressed their concern with the bill, indicating that this was a clear step towards the authoritarian one-man rule that the AKP and Erdoğan were after. “The AKP’s departure point is to intervene in the individual’s rights and freedoms. It is to eliminate a life style in Turkey which is not internalized by them. The AKP does not want the opposition to do the task of checks and balances. These are the results of one-man rule. What rests in the prime minister’s heart and in his mind is to continue with the one-man rule he currently carries out, as president,” Hamzaçebi said. Yet, he added that they were not planning on referring the bill to the Constitutional Court, and they would leave it up to the president to decide.