Boycott row raises questions

June 29, 2011, Wednesday/ 17:53:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) boycotted the swearing-in ceremony in Parliament on Tuesday on the grounds that the courts are keeping some of their elected members in prison.

Questions have been raised concerning the future of these deputies and how Parliament will function. Legally, boycotting Parliament has no implication in the short term; however, there is no provision for boycotts in the parliamentary bylaws. A decision to boycott Parliament is purely a “political act.” Here are some of the questions about the situation created by the boycott that require answers.

How do jurists perceive the boycott?

Jurists claim that unless deputies take their oaths, they will only be able to receive their salaries and sit in their private rooms in Parliament but cannot be present during legislative meetings of Parliament. However, there appears to be conflicting opinions about whether or not the boycotting parties can attend the General Assembly, with some jurists claiming that they can enter the General Assembly but cannot make speeches and others asserting that they cannot enter at all.

Stating that it is complete madness to refuse to take the oath, retired military judge Faik Tarımcıoğlu said: “First they should take their oath, then they can submit a proposal to Parliament concerning their uneasiness. If the government does not respond to their demand, then they could campaign for support from the nation. In deciding to boycott, the CHP has undermined itself.”

Former prosecutor Sacit Kayasu stated that people wanted to solve this problem within Parliament; however, the position of the opposition conflicts and the national will runs the risk of putting into question legitimacy of Parliament. The CHP should immediately go back on its word. Although the CHP claims that its only problem is that its two deputies haven’t been allowed to be sworn into Parliament, its deputies could have taken the oath in prison because there are no rules on where the parliamentary oath can be taken.

Will the deputies who boycott join in proceedings?

The deputies who did not take their oaths cannot take part in any legislative or monitoring work of Parliament, attend any session of Parliament or submit a parliamentary question, bill or motion for a parliamentary inquiry. It is claimed that this would bring the functioning Parliament to a standstill. However, since the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has more than 184 deputies, which is the required number of any quorum to hold a general session in Parliament, and because it has secured an absolute majority in the parliamentary administration board, according to its bylaws Parliament can function without the CHP and the BDP .

The parliamentary bylaws state that in the five-day period following the swearing-in ceremony, candidates for the speaker’s office will be determined and the new speaker will be elected by July 4, 2011. In this case, the CHP and BDP deputies will not be able to vote for the speaker, either.

The new government program will be read out in Parliament on Tuesday, July 5, at the latest, and a vote of confidence will be held on July 10 at the very latest. Similarly, these deputies cannot participate in this vote, either.

Could the membership of these deputies be revoked?

As Article 84 of the Constitution states, Parliament may decide with an absolute majority -- 276 deputies -- to cancel a person’s membership in Parliament if they do not attend parliamentary activities for five sessions in a month without “excuse and permission.” When the numbers of the BDP (35) and the CHP (135) are considered, one can claim that revoking the membership of these deputies would trigger debates about the legitimacy of Parliament.

Can they take their oaths in subsequent sessions?

The deputies who can provide a valid reason such as illness, arrest or overseas travel may take their oaths at their first session. However, if the person does not attend the oath-taking ceremony without a valid reason, he cannot enjoy the rights and benefits of being a deputy.

Can they establish a parliamentary group?

Article 19 of the parliamentary bylaws states that a political party with at least 20 deputies has the right to establish a parliamentary group. However, establishing a parliamentary group is considered a part of legislative work. For this reason, even though these parties managed to secure more than 20 deputies -- which is needed for establishing a parliamentary group, in the elections -- if they did not take their oaths, they will be deprived of this right. So, in order for a parliamentary group to be established, at least 20 deputies from the CHP and BDP would have to take their oaths.

Will they get deputy salaries?

In order to be a deputy, receiving their mazbatas -- a certificate confirming their election -- is sufficient. However, the oath is necessary to start legislative work, so the deputies who did not take their oaths will be paid only after receiving their certificates.

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