Turkey's parliament prepares to debate immunity

Turkey's parliament prepares to debate immunity

Bülent Sarıoğlu - ANKARA
Turkeys parliament prepares to debate immunity


Turkey’s parliament is scheduled to hold a plenary session on May 17 to debate a government-led bill that would strip some parliamentarians of their immunity from prosecution, with the bill primarily targeting the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which focuses on the Kurdish issue.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is in need of support from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in order to get the amendment adopted without taking it to a referendum.

However, the second round of the two-round-voting is expected to take place on May 20, the date the CHP will meet for a closed-door gathering.

“Earlier, when and exactly on which days the voting on the constitution would be held was announced and a mutual agreement was reached. Now they are breaking the agreement. In our opinion, there is no reasonable justification,” CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said in remarks published on May 16.

“They were told that we would hold our ‘party camp’ on those dates. … As far as we understand, [the AKP’s] intention is different. They want to run this process with different actions so as to avoid creating an atmosphere in which they would be blamed,” he said.

At the plenary, two rounds of secret voting will take place. For a constitutional change in parliament, a party needs to win 367 seats, although 330 are enough to take a constitutional change to a referendum.

The bill proposed on April 12 has the support of all AKP lawmakers – 316, excluding the speaker who is not eligible to vote. There are concerns that some AKP deputies may not vote in favor of the bill because of certain feelings of resentment that stem from latest developments in the party after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced on May 5 his decision to leave the leadership of the AKP at an extraordinary convention on May 22.

Currently the CHP holds 133 seats, the HDP 59 seats, and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) 40 seats, while one seat is occupied by an independent deputy who was recently expelled from the CHP.

With such figures, even if the MHP gives full support during the secret voting as pledged, the AKP will need at least 12 votes from the CHP, and probably a stronger support because of the presence of summaries of proceedings against 36 deputies from the AKP and the MHP.

Ahead of the plenary session, the CHP plans to appeal to reschedule the second round of voting for May 23 instead of May 20. If the AKP insists on having the plenary on May 20 as scheduled, the CHP has been mulling either boycotting the session or attending with a limited number of deputies.

In addition to deliberations on the calendar of voting on the immunity bill and some procedural debates, the plenary is scheduled on May 17 to also hold debates on whether to accept a censure motion filed by the HDP against Economy Minister Mustafa Elitaş as well as some procedural debates. The AKP will only be able to host the debates on the immunity bill and conduct the first round of voting on May 17 if it overcomes these hurdles.

The HDP regards the issue as “the coup agenda of the ruling party,” rather than an issue related to immunities, said a co-deputy leader of the party, Meral Danış Beştaş. 

“The lawmakers will vote on for either ‘democracy or fascism,’ and they will decide on either ‘democracy or one-man rule.’ According to the internal regulations of the parliament, this proposal is meant to be the ‘self-abolishment of the parliament.’ Those who will say ‘yes’ to the proposal also recognize our righteousness but they say ‘the order comes from high places.’ We will see to what extent they will obey the order,” Beştaş said.