ISTANBUL (New York Times) — Lawmakers from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s governing party pushed through an amendment to the Turkish Constitution on Friday, May 20, that would strip members of Parliament of their immunity from prosecution, a move that is likely to lead to the ouster of Kurdish deputies.
After months of fierce debate — including a brawl in Parliament that left one deputy with a dislocated shoulder — 376 of the 550 deputies voted in a secret ballot to approve the constitutional amendment, allowing it to pass without a public referendum. Erdogan is certain to approve the change.
The contentious amendment was proposed after Erdogan called for members of the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, to face prosecution for alleged ties with Kurdish militants who have carried out a three-decade-long insurgency against Turkey.
“This is a historic vote,” Erdogan said on Friday, speaking in his hometown, Rize, on the Black Sea coast. “My people do not want to see guilty lawmakers in this Parliament, especially the supporters of the separatist terrorist organization.”
The HDP is the third-largest party in Parliament with 59 seats; 50 of those lawmakers face prosecution. Under the new amendment, they can be prosecuted for a number of charges, including some for terrorism, and will effectively be removed from Parliament. Mr. Erdogan’s governing Justice and Development Party could then call early elections that would help him establish an executive presidency and consolidate more power.
“We view this motion as a political coup attempt to completely destroy the separation of powers by subordinating the legislative to the executive and leaving the former to the mercy of a thoroughly politicized and biased judiciary,” the HDP Chairmen Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag wrote in a letter to members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.