President Erdoğan: Opposition has polluted Turkish Parliament

Turkey's autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is also the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), accused the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) of “polluting the Parliament” after 15 deputies quit the CHP to join the newly founded İYİ Party and help it set up a parliamentary group.

“On June 24, my nation, my citizens, will give a suitable response to those who polluted Parliament. The solution is the ballot box,” Erdoğan said, referring to snap elections called for June, at an April 23 reception held at Parliament to mark National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, according to a report by the Hürriyet Daily News.

Recalling that earlier it was the CHP which insisted on holding snap polls, Erdoğan said that now they were creating a disturbance. Referring to CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, he said, “You only win at your [party] congresses; however, you always lose at the ballot box.”

“Your 15 so-called deputies are leaving your party and they are joining the İYİ Party,” said Erdoğan.

Fifteen deputies from the CHP joined the İYİ Party on April 22 to ensure that the latter is able to participate in the elections on June 24. İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener has already announced that she will run for president against Erdoğan.

Erdoğan also compared the move to the “Güneş Motel incident” of 1977. “Your 15 so-called deputies are leaving your party, and they are joining the İYİ Party,” said Erdogan, adding that these 15 deputies will not sit in the IYI Party’s seats in the general assembly. “This situation is similar to the Güneş Motel incident,” he said.

In 1977, 12 lawmakers from the Justice Party (AP) were convinced to join the CHP following a secret meeting at a motel in İstanbul. With this support, then-CHP leader Bülent Ecevit formed a cabinet, giving 10 seats to the new entrants.

Erdoğan has also criticised CHP deputy Özgür Özel over remarks concerning the whereabouts of Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on the night of a controversial military coup attempt in July 2016, saying he would have given him an “appropriate” answer if he had been sitting in the lower section of the general assembly hall.

During a speech in Parliament on Monday, CHP deputy Özel said while some deputies resisted coup perpetrators in the Parliament building on the night of the coup attempt, Prime Minister Yıldırım was taken out of his home and spent the night in the Ilgaz Tunnel in northwestern Turkey out of security concerns.

President Erdoğan was sitting in a special section on the upper floor of the Parliament hall while Özel was making his speech. At a reception marking April 23, National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, Erdoğan voiced his frustration with Özel’s remarks, saying: “He [Özel] is shaking his finger at me. I was in the upper section, not the lower part [of the hall]. I don’t sit there. The post I hold requires me to sit up above, but if I had been down there, I would not only have given him the answer he deserves but a big lesson that he needs as well.”

Özel, who later spoke to the Birgün daily, accused Erdoğan of threatening him while saying that his remarks about Yıldırım are also available in the records of a parliamentary commission that was established to investigate the coup. Özel also challenged Erdoğan to appear on a TV program for a debate with him, saying he is ready for it wherever and whenever Erdoğan wishes.

President Erdoğan had left a special session in Parliament on Monday earlier than expected when opposition party leaders directed criticism at the government for an ongoing state of emergency in the country.

Parliament convened for a special session on the occasion of National Sovereignty and Children’s Day during which CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-chairperson Pervin Buldan slammed the AKP government for keeping a state of emergency in effect.

The state of emergency was declared for three months on July 20, 2016 due to the coup attempt on July 15, 2016. It was extended for another three months on Oct. 19, 2016, Jan.19, 2017, April 19, 2017, July 21, 2017, Oct. 16 2017 and Jan. 18, 2018. Emergency rule was extended for another three months last Wednesday for the seventh time.

The opposition leaders’ remarks on the state of emergency attracted protests from the AKP and deputies from the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which also strongly backs emergency rule.

Erdoğan walked out of Parliament as he described the debates on the state of emergency as “scandalous.”

The state of emergency has granted Erdoğan and his government extraordinary powers. Under it, the government has pressed ahead with many controversial decrees that have the force of the law and are not required to be approved by Parliament. In line with these decrees, more than 150,000 people have been purged from state bodies on coup charges.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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