Turkey Votes to Remove Parliamentary Immunity

Majority of the Turkish Parliament voted to remove parliamentary immunity (Source: Hurriyet Daily News)
Majority of the Turkish Parliament voted to remove parliamentary immunity (Source: Hurriyet Daily News)

Majority of the Turkish Parliament voted to remove parliamentary immunity (Source: Hurriyet Daily News)

ANKARA (Hurriyet)—Turkey’s parliament backed a controversial bill on May 17 that would strip dozens of deputies of their parliamentary immunity, with 348 supporting the bill in the 550-seat parliament.

Some 155 deputies voted against the measure, with the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) – which focuses on the Kurdish issue – claiming it is essentially a move to expel its MPs from parliament.

The number of votes approving the bill was above the number of votes needed to bring it to a referendum, 330, but below the number that would allow the bill pass without one, 367.

The bill can be taken to a referendum should the results stay above 330 and below 367 in the second and final round of voting on May 20.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has 317 seats in parliament, needs to win 367 votes in parliament – a two-thirds majority – to push the legislation through directly at the second-vote stage.

The first article of the proposal was accepted with 350 votes, while the second one was accepted with 357.

Several deputies from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) voted against the bill, while there were at least seven MPs that voted against it from the AKP and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which firmly stated that it would support the AKP in lifting the immunities, the results revealed.

The AKP has 317 seats in parliament and the MHP has 40 seats. The CHP claims that at least 20 deputies from their party voted for the measure, which means that more than 20 deputies voted against the bill in the AKP-MHP bloc.

According to the results, the HDP voted against the measure as a bloc, consisting of 59 deputies.

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.

The bill had already led to fist fights at the committee stage with AKP and HDP deputies rather than discussing the document.

Under current Turkish law, members of parliament have the right to full immunity from prosecution. If the new bill passes, it would lift the immunity of 130 deputies from all parties whose dossiers have been sent to the parliamentary speaker.

“What this motion seeks is to destroy the HDP in parliament,” party co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, both of whom could face prosecution, said in a letter to European MPs.

The removal of parliamentary immunity has a precedent in Turkey. Back in March 1994, the immunities of four deputies of the now-defunct pro-Kurdish Democratic Labor Party (DEP) – a predecessor of the HDP – were lifted on charges of helping the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Previously, current HDP deputy Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Selim Sadak and late Orhan Doğan were elected for the now-dissolved Social Democratic Populist Party (SHP) before splitting off to form the DEP. They were all dragged out of parliament to serve long jail sentences after their immunities were revoked.

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