Political leaders meet at reception marking Turkish Parliament’s new legislative year

Political leaders meet at reception marking Turkish Parliament’s new legislative year

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Political leaders meet at reception marking Turkish Parliament’s new legislative year

President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, along with their spouses, were among the guests. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Turkish Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek hosted a reception on Oct. 1 on the occasion of the opening of the new legislative year, with the attendance of high state officials and their spouses including President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Chief of General Staff Necdet Özel, and opposition leaders.

The main topic of discussion between the guests was the democratization package announced by the government a day earlier.

During the reception, Erdoğan asked two deputies from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Sırrı Sakık and Hasip Kaplan, "not to look at the glass as half-empty" regarding the much-anticipated democratization package, which he hopes will give momentum back to the Kurdish peace process.

Kaplan replied that the BDP's expectations for the package had been bigger. "We see the full part of the glass, but we also express what is missing. We expected that everyone could have returned home," he said, referring to political prisoners.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, who slammed the package as a "nightmarish concession" to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), had more moderate words to say on the amendment lifting the ban on wearing headscarves in public offices.

"There are [headscarf-wearing women] at the Presidential Palace as well as at the Prime Ministry," Bahçeli said, referring to both of the president's and the prime minister's wives. "Why not at Parliament?" he added. The MHP is reportedly among the parties preparing to nominate at least one headscarf-wearing candidate for the upcoming local elections.

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who skipped the Victory Day reception on Aug. 30, briefly attended the reception at Parliament. "I might not have attended if I had left Parliament earlier," Kılıçdaroğlu said, after a journalist told him that his participation was not expected.

Commenting on the attendance of President Gül's wife to the session - a first in his tenure - Kılıçdaroğlu said she had come to watch her husband's speech, adding, "perhaps she wondered how he looks like on the [Parliament's] pulpit."

Kılıçdaroğlu also confirmed that CHP deputy Mehmet Haberal, freed during the Ergenekon trial verdict in early August, will take his parliamentary oath tomorrow.

For his part, Chief of General Staff Necdet Özel avoided responding to journalists' insistent questions over the government's decision to select a Chinese firm in the tender of the country's first long-range air defense system, one of the burning topics of last week.

"You should ask these questions to the government," Özel told reporters.

U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone, Constitutional Court’s head Haşim Kılıç and Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek were also among the guests at the reception.