Opposition parties join AK Party in rejecting boycott, BDP remains isolated

TODAY’S ZAMAN
ANKARA

While the Peace and Democracy Party reaffirmed its earlier position to stick to a boycott, the main opposition Republican People’s Party leader Kemal K?l?çdaro?lu indicated that his party would go to Parliament on Tuesday, a strong sign that the CHP will back down from the threat of a “no-show” at the oath-taking ceremony.
The two main opposition parties have joined the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in rejecting calls for a boycott of Parliament, leaving the independents endorsed by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) out in the cold.
While the BDP reaffirmed its earlier position to stick to a boycott, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said it would go to Parliament on Tuesday, a strong sign that the CHP will back down from the threat of a “no-show” at the oath-taking ceremony. But the CHP did not commit itself publicly to taking part in the oath. The nationalists have already declared they will participate in the parliamentary proceedings.
The decision to boycott Parliament to challenge court decisions’ to not release suspects currently on trial for criminal offenses and to strip one deputy of his elected status because of a prior conviction was criticized by politicians and analysts alike. They said Parliament should not be the venue to pressure courts to reverse their decision on these matters.

“This is not the right approach,” said AK Party parliamentary group deputy chairman Suat K?l?ç. “Whether you like it or not, under current laws these people have either been barred from attending the swearing-in session by the courts or stripped of their status because of legal hurdles they faced. Calling for a boycott of parliamentary proceedings to pressure this body into making changes to accept these suspects as deputies is not understandable,” he told Today’s Zaman.

K?l?ç further argued that the AK Party does not advocate the idea that current laws are in line with universal values. “In fact we call on all parties to help us revamp the current Constitution and laws. Instead of deciding to not show up in Parliament, they should come and work with us to make all these changes,” he said.

Independents endorsed by the BDP called for a boycott of Parliament in protest of a Supreme Election Board (YSK) decision to strip Hatip Dicle, one of six jailed deputies, of his right to assume his post over an earlier separate terrorism-related conviction. A Diyarbak?r court also denied petitions for the release from jail of three Kurdish deputies who were elected as independents.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Antalya deputy Mehmet Günal told Today’s Zaman that his party believes in the functioning of democracy and the importance of Parliament. “It is out of the question that the MHP would call for a boycott of Parliament. We will participate in the oath-taking ceremony on Tuesday. People elected us to serve in this body, and we believe in people,” Günal stated.

In a written statement MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli also noted that the party would instruct deputies to join in the oath-taking ceremony out of respect for the national will and reputation of the Turkish Parliament. “The MHP will support the functioning of the democratic process,” Bahçeli pointed out. The 10th ?stanbul High Criminal Court late on Friday rejected a request to release Sledgehammer suspect Engin Alan, who was elected to Parliament for the opposition MHP in the June 12 elections.

This marked another blow to jailed deputies seeking release in order to enter Parliament. Sledgehammer is a subversive plot allegedly prepared in 2003-2004 by a clique within the military that included plans to crash jets and bomb large mosques during busy prayer hours in efforts to undermine the AK Party government, with the hope of eventually overthrowing it.

The CHP made clear on Monday that it would join in the oath-taking ceremony as well, dismissing earlier remarks by party leadership who signaled the CHP might also call for a boycott. Today’s Zaman has learned that the CHP notified the Parliament Speaker’s Office that its deputies will show up at the ceremony. It was rumored that the CHP might boycott Parliament just like the 30 independent deputies who have already decided to do so.

The reason for the CHP to wait until the last minute for a formal announcement is to put pressure on the ?stanbul court to reverse an earlier decision not to release Ergenekon suspects who were elected from the CHP list, political analysts in Ankara said. ?sa Gök, a deputy from Mersin for the CHP, said on Monday that CHP leader Kemal K?l?çdaro?lu would make the announcement at 2:30 p.m. today, just half an hour before Parliament starts the oath-taking ceremony. The party will also convene all its deputies in Parliament at 1:30 p.m.

In the meantime, CHP parliamentary group deputy chairman Akif Hamzaçebi dismissed reports that the CHP would boycott Parliament. “I think that would be too strong a measure to take at this point. The CHP holds the view that all problems should be solved in Parliament,” he remarked.

CHP Deputy Chairman Gürsel Tekin said last week that they would consider all options if the appeals filed against a Thursday ruling barring two jailed CHP deputies from entering Parliament are denied. Newly elected Kurdish lawmakers have already announced their decision for a boycott and have called on the CHP to follow suit. The new Parliament is to convene today for an oath-taking ceremony, but the CHP has not formally announced its final decision, but it was expected to join in the oath-taking ceremony.

When pressed by a reporter on Saturday about a possible stand by the CHP at the oath-taking ceremony, K?l?çdaro?lu said the party position would be clear following the result of their appeal of the court decision to bar Mehmet Haberal and Mustafa Balbay, both of whom were elected as deputies but are currently under arrest pending trial for aggravated crimes allegedly committed against the state and Parliament as part of the Ergenekon terror network, whose ultimate aim was to overthrow the democratically elected government in Turkey through a coup d’état. K?l?çdaro?lu maintained the suspense on Sunday during a visit to the town of Aya? near Ankara, and his remarks were noncommittal and vague on whether or not they would participate in the ceremony.

Mehmet Altan, a columnist at the Star daily, said the system as structured after the military coup in 1980 was declared bankrupt following legal scandals after the elections. “We need democratization of the current system as problems are caused by structural deficiencies. We have to change this system to avoid pitfalls like we are experiencing right now. All political parties should come together and reform the system. Both the BDP and the CHP need to take their place in Parliament,” he told Today’s Zaman.

Speaking at a Turkish Exporters Assembly (T?M) convention over the weekend, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an said the country needs a completely new constitution to solve problems caused by the current legal system. In his first public remarks on the controversy following the June 12 elections, Erdo?an said: “What we are saying is that we need to abandon this car that is dented all over and has a sputtering engine. … We should continue on our way with a brand new, zero-mileage car,” drawing on the analogy of an old car when talking about the old Constitution. Erdo?an has called on all parties to put aside their biases and start working on a new constitution with a spirit of compromise.

President Abdullah Gül also emphasized that “the only venue for a solution to all those problems is Parliament.” He said: “I call on all political parties with seats in Parliament to work together on this legitimate and democratic issue by taking into consideration the views of all segments of society. … I believe we can turn these problems into an opportunity for our country. It has become necessary now to find a solution and to write a new constitution to improve our democratic standards.”

“We need more fundamental reforms to improve our legal system and democracy to universal levels,” Gül said. He added: “Any delay in efforts to find a solution will make these problems more serious. The only venue for a solution to all these problems is Parliament.”

In related developments, Germany-based Federation of Kurdish Workers’ Associations (KOMKAR) President Kovan Amedi released a statement on Monday, saying his organization felt it was wrong for the BDP to boycott Parliament. “I don’t think it is right to boycott Parliament. That’s why they entered the elections. And that’s why people voted for them,” he told the Cihan news agency.


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