CHP representatives vote against PACE resolution on worsening situation of opposition politicians in Turkey

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General view of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) during the "PACE Spring session, 2017. AFP PHOTOS

Four representatives of Turkey’s main opposition party in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Thursday voted against a resolution on the worsening situation of opposition politicians in Turkey, the Ahval news website reported.

The resolution was adopted with 72 votes in favor and 28 votes against and eight abstentions.

Turkish members from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), its ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the nationalist İYİ (Good) Party voted against the motion.

PACE called on Turkish authorities to fully respect opposition politicians’ rights and freedoms of expression, association and assembly in its preliminary meeting on Thursday.

The CHP representatives were deputies Ahmet Ünal Çeviköz, Yunus Emre, Selin Sayek Böke and Haluk Koç.

The assembly notably expressed its concern over 154 parliamentarians being stripped of their immunity in May 2016, which has disproportionately affected the mainly Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

The assembly criticized Turkey over restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, the detention and imprisonment of opposition parliamentarians, former parliamentarians and local elected representatives that it said has “obstructed or undermined the ability of opposition politicians to exercise their rights and fulfill their democratic roles both inside and outside parliament.”

The assembly expressed its concerns over the detention and imprisonment of opposition legislators and former parliamentarians in Turkey, including former deputy and former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, deputy Leyla Güven and former deputy and PACE member Ertuğrul Kürkçü.

Güven, who has been on a hunger strike since Nov. 8 over Turkish authorities’ treatment of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), was released on Friday by a Turkish court in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır.

The European parliamentarians also added that the European Court of Human Rights in its November 2018 ruling had found that the detention of Demirtaş during two crucial election campaigns, namely a referendum and a presidential election in Turkey, had pursued the “predominant ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate.”

The assembly said the replacement of over 90 elected mayors from the HDP by government-appointed mayors had seriously undermined the functioning of local democracy, especially in southeastern Turkey.

PACE noted that the worsening of the situation of opposition politicians took place in a context that had been marked by continuous restrictive measures introduced by Turkish authorities to silence journalists, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, academics and other dissenting voices.

The assembly also called on Turkey to repeal Article 299 of the penal code on insulting the president and to amend Article 301 on denigrating the Turkish nation, state and republic.

The European parliamentarians called on Turkey to amend its anti-terror law and lower the 10 percent electoral threshold, which they said impedes the ability of the opposition to be represented in parliament.

The assembly called on Turkey to finalize and implement a judicial reform plan and a human rights action plan in cooperation with the Council of Europe while demanding a review of the constitutional reforms adopted in 2017 with a view to restoring a proper balance of and effective separation of power among the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

During what the Deutsche Welle Turkish edition called a tense session, the head of the Turkish delegation to PACE, Akif Çağatay Kılıç from the AKP, harshly criticized the resolution and said HDP deputies were in prison for failing to denounce the PKK as a terrorist organization and instead praising it.

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