AK Party proposes petition for amendment to Constitution on lifting parliamentary immunity

Published 07.04.2016 00:00
Updated 07.04.2016 21:17

The Justice and Development (AK) Party on Thursday proposed a petition to the parliamentarians for amendments to the Constitution on lifting parliamentary immunity.

To make amendments to the Constitution at least one third (184) of the total number of deputies [550] in parliament have to submit a written proposal. The proposal for constitutional amendments are first discussed in the Constitutional Committee of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) and then discussed twice in the General Assembly.

For the proposal to be accepted three-fifths (330) of the total number of deputies have to cast secret votes in parliament. The president may refer the law regarding Constitutional amendments back to the Assembly for reconsideration, if found necessary. If the Assembly accepts the law in its original version – without new amendments- with a qualified majority vote of 2/3 (367 votes), the president may ask for a referendum.

The actual process to lift immunity begins with the summaries being sent to the parliament speaker and followed by the Constitution and Justice Joint Committee. If the committee decides for the removal of immunity, it conveys the summaries to Parliament along with its report. The report is read within 10 days in the Parliament and is finalized if there is no opposition or if opposition is overruled. The accused deputies can defend themselves in Parliament. Afterward, a vote is held in Parliament, and if the majority votes to lift immunity then it is accepted.

As of late March, there were 43 CHP, 41 HDP, 22 AK Party and six MHP deputies facing the lifting of their parliamentary immunity. Many deputies had had multiple cases launched into them.

The request to lift parliamentary immunity was first made concerning statements by HDP members' supporting PKK assertions of self-autonomy, which were made in December 2015 at the Democratic Society Congress (DTK). A probe was opened on the grounds of "making terrorism propaganda," "inciting a crime," and "encouraging sedition," in addition to violation of Article 302 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) by "disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state."

Demirtaş had delivered a speech at the DTK in December during which he expressed support for Kurdish autonomy and self-rule in southeastern Turkey. "Hopefully the authorities will read this declaration one more time with calmness, and see that self-rule [and] autonomy offer a very significant opportunity for all of us in terms of living together," he said.

Demirtaş's statement received immediate criticism, yet Yüksekdağ quickly came to his defense. "Self-rule is a right," Yüksekdağ said, and claimed that Demirtaş's recent statements at the DTK and the declaration issued following the congress were of "historical significance." After these statements, criminal probes against the five HDP deputies were opened concerning "crimes against the constitutional order."

HDP deputies have in the past praised the PKK terrorist organization. In a live broadcast on the BBC on Aug. 6, HDP co-spokesman and Deputy for İzmir Ertuğrul Kürkçü said that PKK terror attacks on Turkish security forces are not "a matter for condemnation." HDP co-chair Yüksekdağ praised the PKK terrorist organization, and described it as "a national liberation movement, and also an organization that stands for democracy and equality."

In the history of the Republic of Turkey, there have been 40 deputies whose legislative immunity was suspended and prosecuted. In 1994, the parliamentary immunity of seven pro-Kurdish Democracy Party (DEP) deputies was removed, due to their direct links with the PKK terror organization and "betrayal of the integrity of the state." In 1998, the parliamentary immunity of deputies from the center-right True Path Party (DYP) Sedat Bucak and Mehmet Ağar was removed, due to their involvement in corruption and criminal activities following the Susurluk scandal.

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