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Brawl erupts in Turkey's parliament over constitutional reform

At least two Turkish lawmakers have been hospitalized after fighting broke out in parliament. It's not the first time politicians have come to blows over a reform bill that would boost President Erdogan's powers.

The scuffle broke out after independent legislator Aylin Nazliaka handcuffed herself to the microphone on the parliament's rostrum to protest against the controversial reform package.

"I am chaining myself to the lectern to say no to the diktat of one man, to oppose the annulment of republican values and protest against parliament being handcuffed with this constitutional revision," she said.

The move prompted the parliament's deputy speaker to twice call a recess and halt debate on the draft constitutional amendments. The situation escalated when deputies from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) tried to unscrew the microphone. Television footage of the confrontation showed women from the ruling party and the opposition punching, kicking and slapping each other.

Pervin Buldan, a deputy speaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), was hospitalized after being kicked in the chest, Turkish media reported. AKP legislator Gokcen Enc was also allegedly taken to hospital with blows to her neck and back.

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One legislator from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Safak Pavey, who has a prosthetic arm and leg, told the "Hurriyet” newspaper she was pushed out of her wheelchair while a colleague was "dragged by her hair."

"They attacked us, it was like they lost their heads. This attack shows what awaits us once the (reform of) the constitution is passed," Pavey said.

Controversial changes

Thursday's clash was the third time that debates on the proposed legislation had led to violence. Most recently, the parliament witnessed similar scenes last week, with one ruling party legislator claiming he was bitten on the leg.

The bill at issue would give President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office executive powers and allow him to appoint and fire ministers. The AKP insists the changes are necessary to ensure a strong presidency. Critics, however, complain the law would concentrate too much power in Erdogan's hands.

A final vote on the legislation is expected in parliament on Friday or Saturday. If approved, the reforms would then be put to a national referendum.

nm/kl (AFP, AP)

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