Crisis looms at oath-taking ceremony in Parliament

TODAY’S ZAMAN
?STANBUL


Independent deputies (L-R) Ertu?rul Kürkçü, Levent Tüzel and S?rr? Süreyya Önder reportedly said the parliamentary oath contains racist elements and does not comply with the socialist ideology they adhere to.
Turkey may face yet another oath-taking crisis later this month when new deputies take the parliamentary oath to become members of Parliament as several independent deputies backed by a pro-Kurdish party are reportedly unwilling to read out parts of the oath on the grounds that the statements are against their ideological principles and contain racist elements.
Newly elected socialist independents say the parliamentary oath taken by deputies during their initial swearing-in ceremony is against their ideology. Although one of them denied that he was planning not to take the oath, others seem unwilling to read the full oath. A crisis similar to what happened in 1991 when a Kurdish deputy attempted to take the oath in Kurdish might ensue

A news report which appeared in the Milliyet daily on Friday said three socialist deputies, ?stanbul deputies S?rr? Süreyya Önder and Levent Tüzel and Mersin deputy Ertu?rul Kürkçü, who were elected from candidate lists endorsed by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), had said they do not want to swear to be loyal to the principles and reforms of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and to the Constitution during parliamentary oath-taking. They say the oath contains many other racist elements and does not comply with the socialist ideology they adhere to.

The decision of the deputies signals yet another oath-taking crisis involving pro-Kurdish deputies in Parliament. Leyla Zana, who was elected as an independent deputy from Diyarbak?r in Sunday’s elections and was also backed by the BDP, was involved in a similar crisis in 1991 when she took part of her oath of office in Parliament in Kurdish, a language not recognized as an official language in Turkey. She was a deputy for the now-defunct Democracy Party (DEP) at the time.

The news report also said the BDP administration is, however, unwilling to create an oath-taking crisis in Parliament.

Article 81 of the Constitution says members of Turkish Parliament, on assuming office, shall take the following oath: “I swear upon my honor and integrity, before the great Turkish nation, to safeguard the existence and independence of the state, the indivisible integrity of the country and the nation, and the absolute sovereignty of the nation; to remain loyal to the supremacy of law, to the democratic and secular republic, and to Atatürk’s principles and reforms; not to deviate from the ideal according to which everyone is entitled to enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms under peace and prosperity in society, national solidarity and justice, and loyalty to the Constitution.”

Speaking to Samanyolu Haber on Thursday, Republican People’s Party (CHP) ?stanbul deputy Oktay Ek?i, who will preside over the session as the oldest member of Parliament, said it was out of the question for him to make any concessions to Parliament’s bylaws.

In later remarks to Today’s Zaman, he said a person who was elected to Parliament knowing the bylaws, rules and tradition of Parliament does not have the right to say that he did not know about these when he or she is elected.

“We will implement what Parliament’s bylaws. I have not yet completed my consultations on this issue yet. The Parliament’s Speaker’s Office will take the action necessary. Parliaments have their own rules and traditions. The individuals elected to Parliament should act accordingly. They may make challenging statements outside but they cannot act in Parliament the same way they act on the street. After becoming members of Parliament, they cannot say they did not know about the oath. They should not say this,” Ek?i noted, adding that he would take the necessary legal action in the event of an oath crisis.

In the meantime, BDP leader Selahattin Demirta? and Kürkçü denied Milliyet’s report on Friday and said they have no such issue on their agenda. Kürkçü said the Milliyet’s report was “a lie from the beginning to the end” and that it aims to stir up provocation.

Thirty-six BDP-backed independent deputies were elected in the elections, which resulted in the victory of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) with 50 percent of the vote.

Although Zana has announced that she will not attempt to take the parliamentary oath in Kurdish, she said she does plan to come to Parliament wearing a headscarf in order to protest a ban on the use of headscarves in Turkey.

There is a strict ban on the use of the Muslim headscarf in Turkey. Women with headscarves are not allowed to enter military facilities, including hospitals and recreational areas belonging to the Turkish military. There is currently no headscarved deputy in Parliament. In 1999, a headscarved woman, Merve Kavakç?, was elected to Parliament from the now-defunct Virtue Party (FP). When she entered Parliament with her headscarf, she faced strong protest from a number of other deputies and was forced out of Parliament.


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