Parliament removes army guard from compound after 82 years

December 01, 2011, Thursday/ 16:18:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

As part of an ongoing wave of removing military tutelage over the state's institutions, the Office of the Parliament Speaker took an important step by requesting the removal of a military unit that has been stationed on the Parliament grounds since 1920, a move that was passed by Parliament's general assembly on Wednesday.

According to the new regulation, the Interior Ministry will provide security units to Parliament. This means that the army, after 81 years, will no longer be tasked with ensuring security at Parliament, a role to be given to the state police. The regulation will come into effect in three months.

The battalion stationed on the Parliament grounds has caused much controversy and many quarrels since the first attempt to remove it was made 20 years ago. However, Turkey, whose current Constitution was drafted by a military junta after a bloody military takeover in 1980, is continuing its recent democratization trend with this most recent move.

The government previously discussed possible security flaws at the Parliament compound, which 8,000 to 10,000 people enter and exit every day, including 5,000 staff. However, after discussing this issue with the National Police Department, the Office of the Parliament Speaker made a plan regarding how security will be handled by police when the regulation is in force.

The troops that are part of the Presidential Guard are on duty at night, while the police provide security during the daytime and at night when Parliament is holding a night-long session. Previously, the police stood guard at the three entrance gates of Parliament until 7 p.m., when the guards would take over. This was later changed to have the police continue to serve during the nightly General Assembly sessions.

The first attempt to remove military unit from the Parliament grounds was made by Mustafa Kalemli, the parliament speaker of 20 years ago.

Another attempt was made in 2005, when Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Tokat deputy Resul Tosun submitted a bill suggesting the removal of the guards. The General Staff condemned Tosun, releasing a harshly worded statement. In fact, this attempt was included as evidence when the Constitutional Court heard a case against the AK Party in which the prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals accused the governing party of Islamizing the country, and attempting to change Turkey's secular regime to a religious one.

In 2008 Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan had talks with then-Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt for the removal of the guards, to no avail.

In a related development, the government rolled up its sleeves to either abolish or drastically amend Article 35 of the Turkish Armed Forces' (TSK) Internal Services Law, which has been used as a legal basis for military coups in Turkey. The article states that it is the military's duty to protect the nation from all threats, domestic or external.

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