Turkish assembly brawl fuels dictatorship quarrel

Turkish assembly brawl fuels dictatorship quarrel

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish assembly brawl fuels dictatorship quarrel

PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses his lawmakers at a group meeting. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Turkey’s prime minister faced mounting charges of authoritarianism yesterday in a simmering row over planned education reform, but he brushed aside the accusations and hailed the bill’s “historic”
approval at the commission stage, blaming the main opposition for brawls during voting on the motion.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) declared Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a “post-modern dictator” while the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) said the government had even “outstripped the Nazi rule of Germany.”

Despite recent calls by President Abdullah Gül against “revanchism,” Erdoğan delivered a harsh tirade against restrictions on religious education in the early years of the Republic and the closure of the secondary stage of the imam-hatip religious schools in the late 1990s.

“We are ending oppression. We are making up for the suffering. We will never bow down to the CHP’s brutality and threats. They are now talking about settling scores. We can speak the language they understand,” he said yesterday at the weekly parliamentary meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Erdoğan said the bill would be debated in Parliament in two weeks’ time even though the CHP had asked Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek to nullify its approval at the Education Commission.

“The decision of the commission was a significant step in terms of democracy and for ridding the education system of ideological pressures. I congratulate you all for having accomplished a historic task. What happened was the work of the ravenous CHP lawmakers,” he added.

The AKP rushed the bill through the commission March 11 amid unprecedented fistfights that erupted after CHP lawmakers found themselves stuck outside the door of the tiny room that was packed in advance by AKP deputies. The commission’s AKP chairman took advantage of the chaos and hastily read out the remaining 20 articles of the draft, which were approved by AKP votes without any discussion in 30 minutes.
Opposition fury
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu slammed Erdoğan for introducing “the law of the jungle” and vowed that his party would continue to speak out despite being “subjected to violence” in Parliament.

“We have a post-modern dictator. Remember [Adolf] Hitler who claimed to know everything. Look at what a heavy price he forced on humanity,” he said, arguing that Erdoğan’s rage boiled over because “the lies of the dictator have been exposed” in the international community.

Following Kılıçdaroğlu’s speech, CHP deputies staged a silent march from their meeting hall to the Parliamentary Speaker’s Office. Leading party member Muharrem İnce urged Çiçek to nullify the commission proceedings. “Mr. Çiçek, either be a statesman or resign. We will not recognize you otherwise,” he said.

MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli said the AKP conduct at the commission was an example of “despotism” that “outstripped even the Nazi rule of Germany.” The AKP has “turned democracy into a laughing stock,” he said. Bahçeli also slammed the prospect of Kurdish-language elective courses under the planned reform.

Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş also joined the criticism. While stressing the need to overhaul the education system, he accused the AKP of seeking to replace Kemalist ideology with an Islamic one. He also said Kurdish should not be an elective course but the primary language of education for Kurdish children.