Secret Vote on Lifting Turkish MPs’ İmmunities Delayed to May

ynnnThe process for adopting a government-led provisional change in the constitution that would allow parliament to lift the immunities of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies and others for one time only has been delayed for a week.

Parliament’s Constitution Commission was scheduled to begin discussing the proposal on April 21, but the debate has been postponed to next week after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) prioritized the discussion of a “law on political ethics” by the General Assembly.

The bill proposed on April 12 has the support of all AKP lawmakers – 316, excluding the speaker who is not eligible to vote. Both the president and the government have framed the issue as a matter of “combatting terrorism,” accusing the HDP of being a political front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The Constitution Commission is expected to hold a short debate next week and refer the proposal to the plenary, in which case debates are likely to occur at the beginning of May.

At the plenary, two rounds of secret voting will take place. For a constitutional change in parliament, a party needs to win 367 seats, although 330 are enough to take a constitutional change to a referendum.

As both the ruling AKP and the opposition parties, other than the HDP, are expected to fail a block vote of their MPs in favor of the amendment, despite their party leaders’ public support for it, a referendum may be an option to secure the change.

Previously, the AKP was planning to put the proposal on the shelf if it is unable to secure 367 deputies. But now the possibility of a referendum is increasingly being discussed.