As we discussed previously, among the many plans which aspiring tyrant Recep Tayyip Erdogan has in place for Turkey is a set of changes to the country’s constitution which would allow him to consolidate power in the executive branch and potentially remain in office for the rest of his life. Unfortunately for Erdogan, there is still a Parliament in place (at least for now) which would have to approve these changes. The president’s party holds a solid majority, but not quite the supermajority which would be required to rush the changes through with no input from the opposition. Despite the fact that many of their colleagues are currently cooling their heels in Erdogan’s jails, some of those minority party candidates stood up against the “reforms” this month and took the fight to the majority… literally. A fight broke out on the Parliament floor and it involved throwing some haymakers. (Time Magazine)
On Jan. 11, members of Turkey’s parliament gathered in Ankara to debate a package of constitutional amendments that includes a dramatic expansion of presidential power. Perhaps it was only fitting that it quickly devolved into a fistfight.
During the heated debate, opposition lawmakers took control of the parliament chair’s seat in an attempt to filibuster or block the amendments from moving forward. Deputies from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) protested, and moved in to retake the stand. A filibuster is one thing, but a physical occupation of the chair was against parliamentary procedure, they later argued. Punches were swiftly thrown. Video footage of the incident shows a frenzy of MPs pushing and shoving each other.
In one photo, AKP lawmaker Ravza Kavakci Kan looks on at the rugby scrum of men in suits. Her arms are folded, her lips pursed in a look of utter disappointment. “I couldn’t physically go in between men to stop them. There wasn’t anything I could do. I was thinking the Turkish people deserve better. We shouldn’t have this in the parliament,” she told TIME in a phone interview.
It’s not quite as bad as some of the brawls we’ve seen in South American legislatures in the past, but it’s definitely more than a scuffle. In this video taken from the floor of Parliament you can see men in suits initially shaking hands, then yelling, then some shoving begins leading to fists flying.
It was a spirited display to be sure, but I’m not about to get my hopes up that anyone can seriously slow Erdogan’s roll at this point. He doesn’t need all that many votes from outside of his own party to pull this off and too many of his opponents are frightened. That’s not meant to disparage them in any way because they have every reason to be. Much of the opposition centers around the Kurds and their allies. At the moment there are too many of them languishing in detention, having been identified as being on Erdogan’s enemies list. Many are doctors, police chiefs and clerics, but a significant number of them are politicians as well.
Facing that sort of oppression it won’t be shocking if Erdogan’s party finds the few votes it needs to alter the constitution among those who view it as a choice between siding with the enemy or disappearing into a dungeon.