Turkish parliamentary session breaks following scuffle over presidential system

A parliamentary session on Turkey’s presidential system was cancelled on Wednesday after a scuffle broke out between lawmakers from Turkey’s ruling and opposition parties.

A number of lawmakers from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) physically confronted main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Özgür Özel, who criticised the ruling party over its alliance with the MHP and for back-pedalling on a general amnesty bill, first discussed in 2018.

"Those who threw forth the idea of an amnesty for those behind bars, raising the hopes of the incarcerated and their loved ones, where are you going?’’ independent news site Diken quoted Özel as saying, referring to the AKP’s proposed parliamentary recesses.

Following a series of verbal back and forths, MHP lawmakers swarmed Özel.

The idea of an amnesty first came to public attention in May of 2018, ahead of Turkey’s June 24 parliamentary and presidential elections, as part of the election campaign of the ruling AKP and its far-right ally the MHP. The bill would pardon more than 160,000 prisoners, including notorious mafia leader Alaattin Çakıcı, known for his close ties to MHP leader Bahçeli.

Özel also criticised the presidential system, stating that even lawmakers from the ruling AKP complained of ministers not attending Parliamentary evaluation meetings led by the party’s leader, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Turkey’s executive presidential system, which fully entered into force after the presidential and parliamentary election last year, grants the president vast executive powers. 

The system has been criticised by pundits for granting the president the power to issue decrees, declare emergency rule, appoint ministers and top state officials and dissolve parliament.