Turkish Parliament votes to lift MPs immunity

Turkish Parliament approves a bill that will give courts the ability to prosecute Members of Parliament. Under the constitution MPs were previously immune from prosecution. The bill will impact 138 parliamentarians across all party lines.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Lawmakers watch the counting of the votes for an article of constitutional change which could see more than a hundred lawmakers prosecuted, at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, Turkey, on May 20, 2016.

Updated May 22, 2016

Turkish Parliament on Friday approved a bill to lift the immunity of 138 MPs facing criminal charges, the decision paves the way for judicial proceedings to begin against the MPs.

The constitutional change will be presented to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for final approval.

The Parliament will add the immunity amendment to the Turkish constitution after it “qualified with majority” in three stages. The first stage saw the bill’s first article being put up for a vote, the second stage concerned the bill's second article, while in the third and final stage, both articles of the bill were put to vote as a whole.

Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman announced that the bill eventually received the backing from 376 MPs out of a total of 550-seat assembly, while 140 lawmakers voted against the constitutional change.

The amendment bill was largely supported both by the governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party) which has 316 seats, and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which has 40 seats, at the Parliament.

While the vote was taking place at the Parliament, Erdogan said he might pursue a referendum on lifting MPs’ immunity if the total number of lawmakers supporting the bill failed to meet the constitutionally required number of 367.

In remarks made during his visit to the northern province of Trabzon, before heading to his hometown of Rize, he said, "I hope the voting will be concluded today. If the outcome is between 330 and 367 votes, then what? Then we will go to the people to finalise this issue."

Out of the 138 lawmakers facing criminal charges, 27 of them belong to the governing AK Party, 51 to the main opposition Republican People Party (CHP), 50 to the HDP, and nine to the MHP.

An independent former CHP deputy from Ankara, Aylin Nazliaka, is also among the 138 lawmakers facing criminal charges.

TRTWorld and agencies