Turkish MPs slug it out over bill to give President Erdogan more power
Ankara — Turkish MPs brawled and threw chairs on Thursday in passing three more clauses of a bill bolstering President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.
They have since the start of the week been debating the first reading of the 18-clause bill to change the constitution to create an executive presidency.
A brawl erupted in the chamber in overnight voting. MPs swapped punches and threw chairs around. Dozens crowded around the speaker’s rostrum. One MP was locked in a chokehold and another kicked in the shins.
The proposed changes will do away with a cabinet, but there will be ministers, whom the president will have the power to appoint and fire.
Clauses approved deal with lowering the minimum age for MPs from 25 to 18, increasing parliamentary terms from four to five years defining parliament’s powers.
Five of the 18 clauses were approved by the three-fifths majority required for the new constitution to be submitted to a referendum expected in April.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) mustered the votes needed in an alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
But the changes are vehemently opposed by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the MPs of which boycotted the vote.
The two readings are expected to take two weeks, with parliament working without a break.
"I am proud of my CHP deputies who showed resistance despite all the attacks from the AKP which is desperate to knock down the seat of the nation’s will," the CHP faction’s deputy chairman Ozgur Ozel said.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) also boycotted the vote in protest at the arrest of its two co-leaders and several other MPs over alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
While critics say the move is part of a power grab by Erdogan for a one-man rule, supporters say it will put Turkey in line with France and the US, and is needed for efficient government.
Terror attacks and political uncertainty have weighed on the Turkish lira, which weakened 18% against the dollar in the past three months.