Two parliamentary brawls in as many days, filibusters, street demonstrations and a courthouse sit-in have characterized the controversy over a new domestic security bill that Turkish legislators look set to make law. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) insists the security “package” is up to European Union standards and needed urgently. Critics argue it will create the legal conditions for a police state.
They point in particular to two immediate concerns. First, Kurdish national leaders have warned the law could scuttle the government’s high-stakes peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to end the three-decade insurgency that has killed some 40,000 people. They see the law’s curbs on the right to demonstrate as particularly problematic in the context of ongoing talks, and demand it be amended for negotiations to continue. Second, the law could greatly complicate general elections scheduled for June. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has insisted that the law must be passed to keep street violence, like last October’s deadly protests over what Kurds saw as Turkey’s inaction against the siege of Kobani by militants of the self-declared Islamic State, from marring the poll.
Erdogan’s critics, led by Kurdish national leaders, reply that passing the law would just as likely enflame tensions as empower the police to suppress them. Under the security bill, election day voting could take place in conditions that the head of the Turkish Bar Association has likened to “martial law.” The election will be tense enough as it is: In another move seen as an effort to consolidate his power, Erdogan has declared his intention to have the next parliament draft a new constitution that would transfer executive power from the prime minister to the presidency.