The deputies were to have sworn an oath in parliamentImage: picture alliance/dpa
June 29, 2011
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's third term in office has got off to a turbulent start after opposition parties refused to turn up to the swearing-in of parliament, in protest over court rulings.
More than 30 percent of elected MPs in the Turkish parliament refused to take their oath on Tuesday when parliament reopened for the first time following elections on June 12. That result saw Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AK party comfortably re-elected for a third term.
The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) boycotted the opening ceremony in reaction to court decisions last week not to release two party members from detention in a high-profile trial.
The CHP won 135 seats in the 550-member parliament.
"We are not asking for any privilege for our colleagues; we are not saying they should not be tried. We are only against the seizure of our colleagues' right to take the parliamentary oath, when they have not been convicted and no obstacle was found to their being elected," said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, CHP leader, in a statement.
The two CHP lawmakers in question are being detained in connection with an investigation into an alleged nationalist network accused of plotting to bring down the government.
Meanwhile, the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) - which won 36 seats in the elections - boycotted the ceremony entirely, after the elections board stripped deputy Hatip Dicle of his seat because of a conviction for spreading "terrorist propaganda." The seat was awarded to a runner-up from AK.
Wrangling over seats
Should other seats be reallocated to AK as well, the disqualification of opponents could take the party past the 330-seat mark, which would give Erdogan a large enough majority to call a referendum for a new constitution without the support of other parties.
Erdogan's AK, a socially conservative party with Islamist roots, has 327 seats in the new parliament, including the seat reallocated from the BDP.
Meanwhile, eight elected candidates - five from the BDP, two from the CHP and one nationalist - have been barred from taking up their seats because they are in jail.
"Eight parliamentarians have been deprived of the duty that has been given to them. I would like to put down for the record that this is not befitting to the history of the Turkish parliament or to our democracy," said 79-year-old Oktay Eksi, the oldest member of parliament, who presided over the ceremony. He was the only CHP member who did recite the oath.
AK officials say the Electoral Commission and courts act independently, but opposition parties are crying foul.
President Abdullah Gul has appealed to all parties to resolve their differences in parliament.
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the third opposition party, with 53 seats, fully participated in the swearing-in ceremony, despite the fact that one of its deputies was also barred from his seat in connection with an ongoing court case.
Author: Joanna Impey (AFP, dpa, Reuters) Editor: Martin Kuebler