New security measures unite Turkish opposition

New security measures unite Turkish opposition

In a rare occasion, all three opposition parties have reacted in a similar way to a new domestic security bill drafted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) and expected to be submitted to parliament’s General Assembly this week.

Despite having different political lines, the social democratic main Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), all claim that the measures planned by the government could transform Turkey into a “police state.”

CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has said that if the planned measures - from doubling the possible length of time people can be held in police custody without a court ruling to 48 hours, to extra powers to disperse protests - amount to dragging Turkey back to the days of the military regime after the 1980 coup.

MHP head Devlet Bahçeli has said President Tayyip Erdoğan, not Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, wants a “police state” of his own.

HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş has called on the two other opposition parties to move together to block the General Assembly sessions and therefore stop the draft, despite the AK Parti’s clear parliamentary majority.

The new domestic security “package,” as it is named publicly, was first signaled by Erdoğan in October 2014, months after he was elected president in August. At the time, he vowed to a group of small tradesmen that the government was “determined to clear those vandals off the streets.” “Vandals” is the terminology Erdoğan has used to refer to demonstrators since the wave of Gezi Park protests in June 2013.

After the passing of the draft from parliament’s Interior Affairs Commission two weeks ago, despite the objections of other parties, Prime Minister Davutoğlu said the government was planning to put it into effect within a month.

The government’s stance regarding the security package was hardened after the Oct. 6-8 protests in support of the Kurdish-populated Syrian border town of Kobane, which was then under attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The protests turned violent, with supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been carrying out peace talks with the government, clashing with supporters of Kurdish Hezbollah. At least 40 people were killed in these clashes, and the violence could only be stopped after Davutoğlu asked the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan to issue a message calling for calm, which he did.

After the unrest, Davutoğlu said public order topped his government’s priorities and the security package was made tougher.

The government also plans to use the leverage that will be granted by the package to root out alleged sympathizers of its former ally Fethullah Gülen (the moderate Islamist ideologue living in the U.S.) from the security bureaucracy.

The package also gives extra power to the police and the gendarmerie forces to carry out wider intelligence gathering activities, such as tapping telephones and other electronic communications, against people under suspicion. Home or office searches would also be possible without a court ruling, and although this is open to a court objection, the opposition parties claim that the individual rights of citizens will be violated in the meantime.

Davutoğlu says the package is in line with practices in the European Union; but in this it’s a question of whether best or worst practice is being applied.