Parliament tense over draft on internal rules

Parliament tense over draft on internal rules

Parliament tense over draft on internal rules

Opposition Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) lawmakers object in Parliament during the speech of a ruling party deputy. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Parliament convened yesterday with a plan to resume debate on controversial amendments to its internal rules, a day after the session plunged into disarray amid furious objections by the opposition.

In a rare show of unity, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) took a joint stance against the amendments, which would significantly curb the opportunities of opposition lawmakers to speak in the legislature and challenge moves by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The lawmakers were first scheduled to debate a CHP censure motion against Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin on grounds he was failing to protect the judiciary’s independence. The session was still underway when the Hürriyet Daily News went to print. The day before, Deputy Speaker Meral Akşener was forced to call off the debate after she failed to restore order amid ferocious exchanges and the threat of physical confrontation between AKP and opposition lawmakers.

The opposition has vowed to use all means to block the AKP-drafted bill. But, counting on its comfortable majority, the AKP planned yesterday to pass a proposal to extend Parliament’s working time to the weekend to secure the prompt passage of the bill.

The MHP urged Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek to step in and convince the AKP to withdraw the draft, which the ruling party submitted with the stated aim of speeding up the legislative process.
Under the bill, the currently limitless time for debates on verbal questions to the government is reduced to two hours. Parties would be allowed to have only one representative to speak for five minutes on a given proposal, down from the four lawmakers who have a speaking time of 10 minutes each under the existing rules.

In debates on procedure, parties would be represented by two instead of four deputies and their speaking time would be cut from 10 to five minutes. The brief remarks lawmakers are allowed to make from their benches would be limited to one minute, while the number of proposals each deputy can submit on a draft law at the related commission would be reduced to one.

The draft would also ban lawmakers from carrying “disturbing” objects, a provision seen as targeting CHP deputy Kamer Genç, who has been carrying around a lantern for months in a symbolic gesture of protest at the embezzlement scandal at the Deniz Feneri (Lighthouse) charity, in which the AKP is accused of being involved.