Turkey’s main opposition leader offers PM counterproposal for lifting immunities

Turkey’s main opposition leader offers PM counterproposal for lifting immunities

Rifat Başaran – ANTALYA / Turan Yılmaz - ANKARA
Turkey’s main opposition leader offers PM counterproposal for lifting immunities

AA photo

Turkey’s main opposition party leader has responded to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s call for parliament to lift the immunity of all lawmakers with an alternative proposal, urging a “permanent amendment” rather than the temporary change that the government has suggested.

“All along we have had a principled and consistent approach: Let no deputy have immunity accept podium immunity,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said on March 18, stating that Davutoğlu’s proposal has only outlined “a special constitutional arrangement.”

On March 17, Davutoğlu raised eyebrows by proposing that parliament lift the immunity from prosecution of all lawmakers and collectively review 506 outstanding dossiers by adopting only one temporary constitutional amendment at a single plenary session of parliament.

“I’m making an extremely loud and clear call to Mr. Davutoğlu. As we are changing the constitution, let’s also change Article 83 of the constitution and lift all immunities except podium immunity,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, speaking with a group of journalists in Antalya where he attended a meeting of his party.

“In this way, let’s get rid of the distinction between former legislators and current legislators, let’s not allow for double standards. Let us bring in a permanent, consistent and principled solution,” he added.

15 days

In Ankara, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) presented its proposal to all three parties with seats at parliament, the CHP, the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Tasked by Davutoğlu, AKP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Naci Bostancı and AKP Deputy Chair Ayhan Sefer Üstün presented the proposal to CHP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Levent Gök, MHP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Oktay Vural and Sırrı Süreyya Önder, an Ankara deputy and the HDP’s administrative chief for the parliamentary group.

According to the proposal, a provision of Article 83 of the constitution which states, “A deputy who is alleged to have committed an offence before or after election shall not be detained, interrogated, arrested or tried unless the General Assembly decides otherwise,” will not be applied for the current files as soon as a temporary constitutional amendment goes into force. Accordingly, after the amendment goes into force, all 506 files of summaries of proceedings waiting at parliament, without making any distinction between any party, will be returned to the Prime Minister’s Office within 15 days in order to be sent to the judicial authorities.

The HDP’s Önder said his party was in favor of a more permanent change.

“We are in favor of dealing with the matter through a permanent and essential revision, not temporarily like this. There should be no immunity other than the podium immunity,” Önder told reporters after meeting with AKP executives, adding that the HDP would discuss the proposal following Nevruz spring festival celebrations on March 21.

Speaking to reporters before meeting AKP executives, the MHP’s Vural said files concerning “terror” crimes should be given a priority.

“We support to the end both restricting immunities and lifting immunities. This proposal [from the AKP], however, is a tactical, temporary step. Parliament should instead act with strategic steps, not tactical ones,” Vural said.

Both the CHP and the MHP are expected to deliver their final response to the proposal next week, like the HDP.

Independent judiciary

In meeting with AKP executives, Önder reportedly stressed the importance of judicial independence.

“This issue needs to be dealt with, alongside many other topics. One is the issue of judicial independence and judges. All courts that have issued summaries of proceedings about us are criminal courts of peace, which are all ‘appointed courts,’” he was quoted as saying by reliable sources.

The reignited conflict between security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) triggered nationalist calls to prosecute politicians accused of being close to the PKK, with the MHP asking parliament on March 3 to discuss requests to lift MPs’ immunity as part of the fight against terrorism.

On March 9, Davutoğlu’s office filed a submission requesting the lifting of the immunity of HDP co-leaders Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ and deputies Selma Irmak, Sırrı Süreyya Önder and Ertuğrul Kürkçü. As of late March 16, the Prime Ministry also sent a motion to parliament seeking the removal of the immunity of Tuğba Hezer Öztürk, a HDP deputy from the eastern province of Van who visited the family of a suicide bomber in her constituency after the bomber killed 29 people in Ankara on Feb. 17.

The HDP, the third largest party in the national assembly, currently holds 59 seats.