Main opposition casts doubt over new charter preparations

Main opposition casts doubt over new charter preparations

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Main opposition casts doubt over new charter preparations

An lawmaker shouts at one of his colleagues in Parliament during a debate on March 13. Tensions still run high in Parliament following a fierce fistfight on March 10. AA photo DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

The simmering row over the government’s controversial education reform plan has fueled unease over the constitution-making process, Atilla Kart of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said yesterday. 

“We see once again the hardship of keeping up the constitution process with those who do not seek compromise even on such a fundamental issue such as education,” Kart told reporters.

He said the CHP would convey its concerns to Speaker of Parliament Cemil Çiçek at a meeting of the Constitution Conciliation Commission today.

The CHP has asked Çiçek to nullify the bill’s approval at Parliament’s Education Commission in a session marred by fistfights, which erupted after CHP lawmakers were left without seats in the meeting room, packed in advance by Justice and Development Party (AKP) members. The commission chairman took advantage of the melee and hastily read out the draft, which was approved by AKP votes without any discussion in 30 minutes.

Addressing suggestions Çiçek might step in and create an ad hoc compromise panel, AKP deputy chair Hüseyin Çelik said the party would “certainly support efforts” to ease tensions but would “not allow the opposition to impose fiats on us.”

CHP sources, however, signaled the party would not agree to such a formula, insisting the draft’s adoption at the Education Commission was illegitimate and the debate there must be renewed.
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) welcomed the idea. “Such a panel would be useful. Let’s sit down and talk,” the MHP’s Oktay Vural said, adding they had not received any formal proposal so far.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has remained adamant on the issue, blaming the CHP for the brawls, and saying that the bill would advance to the General Assembly in two weeks’ time.
The bill would re-open the secondary stage of imam-hatip schools and open the door for the introduction of Quranic studies as an elective course in regular schools. Many believe it would also encourage child labor and undermine the schooling of girls.

In a related development, the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions (DİSK), the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK), the Turkish Union of Engineers’ and Architects’ Chambers (TMMOB) and the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) issued a joint statement yesterday calling for the withdrawal of the bill. Trade unions are planning street demonstrations against the bill today and on March 17.

Meanwhile, there were more tensions in Parliament yesterday as Sırrı Sakık of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) argued in the corridors with the AKP’s Vahit Kiler over alleged discrimination against BDP-held municipalities in the distribution of state funds. Sakık threw a vase at Kiler but missed him before other lawmakers intervened to prevent a fistfight.