Turkish PM slams opposition, head of judges association over session marred by brawl
Turkish PM Erdoğan responded to reporters’ questions while inspecting the construction site of the much-debated Çamlıca Hill mosque in Istanbul. DHA photoPrime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has criticized the presence of outsiders at commissions that oversee Parliament’s legislative work, in reference to the head of a professional association of judges who was the recipient of an attempted acrobatic flying kick from a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmaker on Jan. 11.
“It is wrong that people come from outside to the Parliament’s commission’s work to make a speech without having any competence. First, you don’t have the competence to make a speech there. Besides, who do you think you are? Know your place,” Erdoğan said Jan. 12 in a clear reference to YARSAV head Ömer Faruk Eminağaoğlu as he responded to reporters’ questions while inspecting the construction site of the much-debated Çamlıca Hill mosque.
AKP MP Zeyid Aslan’s kung-fu display was not the sole incident during the eventful session on a controversial government bill to give the administration more control over the judiciary, as the participants angrily threw document folders and plastic bottles at each other. One iPad was even sent flying after one participant discovered a new application for the device that is not generally listed in the manual for the cutting-edge tablet.
“These are not lawyers, but they are militants. What they are doing is obstructing the sincere atmosphere and provoking it. They are unfortunately polluting that atmosphere,” Erdoğan said, accusing opposition lawmakers of hurling files and plastic bottles.
“If you would remember, the opposition party threw that document file; thankfully it did not hit anyone. They also threw a plastic bottle at my deputy parliamentary chair,” Erdoğan said, without noting the conduct of Aslan, who rarely steers clear of controversy at Parliament.
The government’s bill comes amid a massive purge at the police department following a large graft investigation and a feud with the judiciary over the legal handling of the scandal.
The bill will give increased powers to freshly appointed Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, although the acting head of the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) described the moves as “unconstitutional” on Jan. 10.
Erdoğan’s supporters have cast the corruption probe as a smear campaign devised by U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who exercises broad, if covert, influence in the media and judiciary through his followers. Many AKP officials consider the HSYK as dominated by members of the Gülen movement. The prime minister himself implicitly admitted the accusation by denouncing a “parallel state” aiming to topple the government.
No ‘fait accompli’ approach
Erdoğan said the government was conscious that the bill could not be approved unilaterally. “The opposition also has an opportunity here; it can take [the bill] to [seize] the Constitutional Court. We will then wait for its ruling. That’s the beauty of democracy. We know that this won’t be solved with a ‘fait accompli’ approach,” Erdoğan said.
On Jan. 11, Bozdağ, who was in the room when the punches were thrown, signaled a step back, hinting that the AKP might back down if the opposition agreed instead to changes to parts of the Constitution governing the judiciary.
“If all political parties agree on a change in articles and announce it, it could be that we withdraw this draft law,” he said.
However, Bozdağ’s comments drew jeers of disapproval from opposition deputies, and a senior source in the ruling party said Erdoğan had no intention of backing down on the bill.
The heated debates are set to continue as the Parliament’s Justice Commission will resume its hearings on Jan. 12 following the previous day’s fight-filled session.