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Bundestag president: Erdogan has 'autocratic ambitions' for Turkey

The Bundestag president has criticized the Turkish regime's push to strip legislators of parliamentary immunity. Norbert Lammert told Süddeutsche Zeitung that Turkey's president has "autocratic ambitions."

Norbert Lammert, president of the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, has accused Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured) of harboring "autocratic ambitions." On Tuesday, a broad majority in Turkey's parliament supported a constitutional amendment backed by the increasingly powerful president to strip legislators of parliamentary immunity.

Lammert, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), told the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) that the development continued "a whole series of events with which Turkey is getting farther and farther away from our standards of democracy."

On Friday, Turkey's parliament will vote in earnest on stripping legislators of immunity for such "crimes" as verbally supporting Kurdish dissidents. Should the bill receive at least 367 votes, clearing two-thirds of parliament, it would become law; if 330 legislators - three-fifths of the Grand National Assembly - lend their support, it would go to a popular referendum. The measure had the support of 348 legislators in a pre-vote on Tuesday.

'Arbitrary attacks'

Critics say the amendment targets the opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which supports equality for Kurds and other minorities and has 59 members of parliament - 50 of whom would face prosecution under the law. There are more than 400 accusations against those 50 legislators, including the HDP's leaders, for charges such as making "terrorist propaganda" for the Kurdistan Workers' Party.

Lammert told SZ that the purpose of Turkey's legislative immunity was rooted in "the protection of parliament and its deputies from the arbitrary attacks of feudal lords."

Erdogan has German and EU leaders in a bit of a bind following Turkey's deportation deal with the European Union to take refugees whose asylum applications are refused. Merkel has remained mostly mum on Erdogan's defamation complaint against a German comedian, as well as on what many describe as his attacks on democracy in Turkey.

Speaking somewhat more freely, Lammert told SZ that the Grand National Assembly could clear "the way to its own self-disempowerment." He added that the "will to self-assertion of Turkey's parliament is being questioned."

If Erdogan were able to prosecute his parliamentary dissenters, it would be easier for him to stack the legislature with members of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which he founded, in the hopes of securing enough votes to concentrate power in Turkey's executive branch. With several AKP legislators also potentially facing charges for corruption and other crimes, some in Turkey are hoping that ruling party MPs will break ranks and vote in their own interest rather than the president's.

mkg/kl (AFP, dpa, AP)

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