Opposition CHP deputies refuse to leave parliament in protest of bill

Opposition CHP lawmakers protesting the draft law at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM), Thursday July 24, 2017 (AA Photo)

Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), lawmakers refused to leave parliament early Thursday, in protest of draft bylaw changes under consideration.

"CHP group, as a protest to the silencing of the opposition, is not leaving parliament tonight," the CHP deputy chairman Özgür Özel said.

Parliament's deputy speaker Ahmet Aydın criticized CHP and demanded an end to the protest.

"This is not the street. It is parliament of the nation … acts that are not complying with the severity of the parliament should be abandoned," Aydın said.

He closed the session and the Justice and Development (AK Party) Party, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers left the hall, however, CHP lawmakers remained.

Changes to the parliament bylaws were proposed by the ruling AK Party and the opposition MHP. Fourteen of the 18 items in the proposal were accepted by the general assembly and four are pending.

Deputies are voting on items that cover a range of bylaws, from the attire of the parliamentary speaker to the amount of time a law can be debated.

The proposed changes were accepted by parliament's Constitutional Committee last week after being tabled by the AK Party and MHP in the face of criticism from the two other parliamentary parties.

One of the proposals would reduce the amount of time lawmakers can debate a parliamentary motion from 40 minutes to 14 minutes -- five minutes for the deputy proposing the motion and three minutes each for a deputy from the other three parties.

In other debates, the length of time a lawmaker speaks would also be cut from 10 minutes to three minutes.

The planned changes would also impose heavy penalties on lawmakers who do not swear the correct parliamentary oath.

Those who fail to make the pledge at the beginning of a new parliament would not be recognized as a deputy of the Grand National Assembly.

The planned bylaws follow April's referendum, as the country prepares to move towards a presidential system.