Turkish Parliament approves controversial bill tightening up gov't grip on judicial body
Ali Ihsan Köktürk, lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), got a bloodied nose in the brawl, while ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) lawmaker Bayram Özçelik's finger was broken, Feb. 15. AA photoTension in Parliament boiled over again Feb. 15 as the government succeeded in passing a controversial judicial reform package amid fisticuffs and injuries, even as the opposition vowed to take the package directly to the Constitutional Court without waiting for a presidential evaluation.
Dozens of MPs fought during the tense 20-hour debate on a law to reshape the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), and insults flew back and forth between the parties, while one opposition lawmaker was hospitalized following an attack by a Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy.
Late last week, when the AKP announced its decision to reintroduce the law despite strong internal and external criticism, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) also announced that it would take the bill to the Constitutional Court to demand its annulment. The CHP’s application will also include a demand for the suspension of the execution of the law, the party’s deputy parliamentary group leader, Akif Hamzaçebi, said.
The CHP has said the government aims to seize authority over the HSYK, making the law illegal.
“The government will hastily undertake appointments. Following those appointments, in the event of the annulment of the law, a cancellation of those appointments is out of the question. Of course, our goal is to prevent the act of the government at the HSYK,” Hamzaçebi said last week when asked why they would not wait for President Abdullah Gül’s decision on the bill.
After the law is sent to his office, Gül will have two weeks to approve or veto it.
Speaking to reporters on Feb. 16 during a visit to his hometown, the Central Anatolian province of Yozgat, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ dismissed the CHP’s argument, while suggesting that they did not have the right to appeal to the top court before the law enters into force by being published in the Official Gazette.
“Unfortunately, the CHP and other opposition parties are distorting this and creating a climate as if the constitutional amendments that were approved in the referendum are dissolved and a step is being taken back from there,” Bozdağ was quoted as saying by the Anadolu Agency.
Bozdağ was referring to a 2010 referendum which brought significant changes to the judicial system, namely to the HSYK, the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State.
The battle for control of the HSYK lies at the heart of a feud between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and influential U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen.
Gülen, whose followers say they number in the millions, is believed to have built up influence in the police and judiciary over decades and leads a powerful worldwide Islamic movement from a forested compound in the United States.
Erdoğan blames him for unleashing a corruption investigation he sees as an attempted “judicial coup” designed to undermine him in the run-up to local and presidential elections this year.
Opposition parties said the HSYK bill aimed to stifle a graft investigation launched on Dec. 17 in which dozens of prominent business people, the sons of three cabinet ministers, and state officials were questioned.
During the debate on Feb. 15, one opposition deputy called Erdoğan a dictator, prompting deputies from the leader’s party to shout back, “Are you drunk?”