Turkish Parliament adopts first 5 articles of new constitution amid brawl

The Turkish parliament adopted the fifth article of the new constitutional reform package, amid a brawl amongst deputies after the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) attacked deputies of ruling Justice and Development (AK Party) Party.

The fifth article, which deals with regulations for job definition and responsibilities of the parliament, is one of the most discussed items, which seeks to end the parliament’s authorization to inspect ministers and the Cabinet.

The article was endorsed by 343 of the assembly’s 550 lawmakers. Seven others rejected it, three ballots were left blank and one vote was deemed invalid.

The secret voting process was interrupted by physical fights between lawmakers of CHP and AK Party after CHP members occupied the parliament rostrum.

Parliament adopts first 5 articles of new constitution amid brawl
The rostrum was broken during the brawl

AK Party Ankara deputy Fatih Şahin’s nose was reportedly broken by CHP deputies, while Trabzon deputy Muhammed Balta’s leg was bitten by an unknown CHP deputy.

Parliament adopts first 5 articles of new constitution amid brawl
AK Party Deputy Muhammed Balta from Trabzon province after he was bitten by a CHP deputy (Twitter Photo)

Thursday marks the fourth day since the debate on the constitutional reforms began in parliament.

On Tuesday and late Wednesday, the first four articles of the Constitution were adopted.

Those items concerned the exercise of judicial power, an increase in parliament seats, the lowering of the age of MP candidacy and regulations on parliamentary and presidential elections, respectively.

Thirteen more amendments proposed by the AK Party will be voted in parliament.

The parliamentary process will likely be followed by a referendum in which the option of replacing Turkey’s parliamentary system with a presidential model will be put to the electorate.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his supporters have argued that Turkey needs a strong presidency to avoid weak governance and allow the country to successfully tackle a number of challenges, including terror attacks from Daesh, the PKK and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).

To reach a referendum, the proposed changes must first be passed by 330 deputies. If it gets the support of 367 lawmakers it could pass into law without a referendum, although the AK Party said it would hold a popular vote regardless.

A simple majority must agree to the changes in a referendum.

The AK Party has 316 seats and Erdoğan hopes the support of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which has 39 seats and last month agreed to back the package, will be enough to secure a referendum.

Other parties – the Republican People’s Party (CHP), with 133 seats, and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), with 59 deputies – remain opposed to a presidential system. Two independent deputies are split over support for the amendments.

Among the changes are plans for an elected president to form a government independently of parliament and for the role of prime minister – typically the person leading the largest parliamentary party – to be abandoned.

Parliamentary and presidential elections would be held on the same day every five years, instead of the current four for the parliamentary vote.

The president would be limited to two terms in office but would not be required to leave his or her political party.

When elected to the presidency in August 2014, Erdoğan had to resign as AK Party leader due to the supposedly apolitical nature of the post.

In the judiciary, the Constitutional Court, Turkey’s highest court for constitutional affairs, would be reduced to 15 members from it’s current 17, while the justice minister would be added to the Supreme Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors, which deals with judicial and prosecution appointments.