Turkey’s ruling party to dominate graft panel in Parliament

Turkey’s ruling party to dominate graft panel in Parliament

Turkey’s ruling party to dominate graft panel in Parliament

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Turkey’s Parliament has elected to establish a single inquiry commission to investigate corruption allegations against four former ministers of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government, with the panel set to be dominated by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) itself.

The commission, which lawmakers in the 550-seat Parliament voted by a huge majority of 453-9 to establish after a tense session May 5 that lasted 16 hours, will decide whether the former ministers will be prosecuted.    

Some 469 members of the Parliament participated in the secret vote about the commission into corruption and bribery allegations concerning former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, former EU Minister Egemen Bağış, former Interior Minister Muammer Güler and former Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar.

Six members of the Parliament abstained from voting, another cast a blank ballot, while around 15 deputies of the 313-seat AKP were not present for the vote, even though the party’s executives had already indicated that the party leadership was in favor of forming such a commission in line with their party’s proposal filed to Parliament.

The government favored the formation of a single panel while the opposition pushed for a separate commission for each minister.

Güler chose to put his ballot in the envelope outside the cabin that provides confidentiality for lawmakers, demonstrating that he was in favor of founding the commission.

According to procedure, investigation commissions function temporarily for four months. The first two months constitute the commission’s original tenure, while the last two months function as an extension.

The four political parties present in Parliament will be represented on the commission according to the proportionate number of seats they hold in the legislature. Thus, the ruling AKP will hold the majority in the 15-member commission. While the AKP will be represented by nine deputies, opposition parties will be represented by just six deputies in total. Parties will nominate three times the numbers of deputies that will eventually sit on the commission after which lots will be cast to select the final 15.

The commission, which will be chaired by an AKP deputy and decisions will be made by majority vote, will likely begin working in the second half of May, meaning that it will not be able to finalize its work before the summer recess, which begins July 1.

The commission is also expected to halt its work due to upcoming presidential elections in August and restart work in October, suggesting that the panel will not complete its work before the end of 2014.

After it finalizes its work, a secret vote on whether the four will be sent to the Supreme Council will be held at the General Assembly. At least 276 votes are required to send the former Cabinet members to the Supreme Council, which is the name that the Constitutional Court takes when it tries ministers and senior members of the judiciary.

The total number of seats held by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP), the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and independent lawmakers is 226.