Changes in by-laws of Turkey’s parliament aim to ‘silence’ the opposition
22.07.2017 13:13 BİRGÜN DAİLY

The latest proposal by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) for adapting changes in by-laws of Grand National Assembly has been approved at committee level – with the votes of AKP and MHP - and forwarded to the Parliament floor.

Opposition parties CHP (Republican People’s Party) and HDP (People’s Democratic Party) have objected to it firmly as the suggested changes, which are claimed by AKP and MHP as changes necessary for a better functioning Parliament, stand as restrictions on activities of the opposition members in the Parliament.

During the talks at the committee, HDP member Mithat Sancar left the room stating ‘since the 63 hours long debates had brought no results, it would be meaningless for his party’. After MP Sancar’s brief speech, HDP members also refused to take part in voting and left.

New draft by-laws of Turkey's parliament bans the terms Kurdistan and Armenian Genocide New draft by-laws of Turkey's parliament bans the terms Kurdistan and Armenian Genocide

Among the changes suggested are more strict rules for punishment of lawmakers. CHP and HDP members press that it is something that will be used to frequently intervene with the work of the opposition and restrict their freedom of speech.

According to one suggested revision, the time granted to lawmakers to speak at parliament sessions is lowered from 10 minutes. Moreover, the members of the party proposing a particular bill will be permitted to speak about the bill at stake for 5 minutes, while other members of other parties will have only 3 minutes.

Certain expressions – such as Armenian Genocide; Kurdistan; and, Kurdish cities – will be deemed as ‘expressions against the Constitution and against unity of the country and its common history’. MPs using such expressions – including using placards to voice their views – will be punished.

CHP MP Emir: 'This is exactly what a dictatorship is'

Mentioning that even the relevant articles in the Constitution about ‘statements against Turkish State’ are vague and open to different perceptions, CHP MP Murat Emir said: “It looks like they (AKP and MHP members) opened up the by-laws and looked for any articles which they can change in order to restrict and even annihilate the opposition. And, this way, they are turning the parliament into a factory of law-making to operate completely with their own agenda... AKP members will now have the opportunity to consider our statements as ‘insult’ and punish us for it with majority vote... Furthermore, saying ‘Kurdistan’, ‘federation’, or ‘Dersim’, for example, will be banned... When we look at these, it is seen that the changes are an attack on freedom of speech. In fact, it is such an attack that something that a citizen on the street can say will not be permitted to be said in the Parliament. But there is no ban for the same MP (saying those banned words) to say it on the street. We are faced with such strangeness! This actually leads us to the conclusion that the Parliament floor is being regressed to a stage even behind the streets. And, this is exactly what a dictatorship is!”

HDP MP Sancar: 'Opposition's chance to voice itself is chopped off'

HDP’s Mardin MP Mithat Sancar highlighted that especially three changes in particular stand as a threat to freedom of speech and added that they will cause expressions used in reference to the Kurdish region and about the Kurdish culture to be deemed as ‘punishable statements’ and added. Sancar continued: “It will also be possible to treat statements such as saying ‘Armenian Genocide’ under the same framework. Another purpose behind this new by-laws is to restrict opposition’s opportunities and rights to create the agenda and be effective. With the new changes, the chance of the opposition to initiate its own agenda has been chopped off even more”.

Front-page article of BirGün published on 22 July 2017, Saturday with the headlinen of 'Another hit on the parliamentary power'

Source: http://www.birgun.net/haber-detay/muhalefet-susturucu-komisyondan-gecti-171068.html