Parliament approves Turkish state of emergency, but opposition wary

Turkey's parliament approved Thursday a three-month nationwide state of emergency, amid growing concerns from opposition parties of potential abuses of power by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the government.

The motion was passed 346-115 in the house, which is dominated by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and was backed by some members of the far-right.

The declaration gives the government additional powers to rule by decree in the wake of a bloody coup attempt, following a large scale purge of state institutions.

Moreover, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus also announced that Turkey was temporarily suspending certain guarantees made in the European Convention on Human Rights, saying this was done within the legal framework.

Already, more than 9,000 people have been detained - including some 6,800 soldiers - and more than 37,500 civil servants and police officers have been suspended. Additionally, 21,000 teachers in private schools lost their licenses.

Turkish officials worked overtime to insist they were only going after followers of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed for the failed putsch over the weekend which left 264 dead and more than 1,500 injured.

However, the scale of the "cleanse," as Erdogan refers to the purges, and the government's past record on stifling opposition has caused concern among some segments of the population.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) said in a statement: "The coup attempt of July 15 turned into an opportunity and tool to liquidate those who oppose the government and to restrict the democratic rights and freedoms even further."

The party also cautioned against a "one-man" rule by Erdogan, who is accused of becoming increasingly authoritarian and seeking more powers since he first became prime minister in 2003.

"Society was obliged to choose between a coup or a non-democratic regime. We definitely reject these choices," the HDP said.

Ozgur Ozel, the party whip of the centre-left People's Republican Party, the largest opposition party, told CNN Turk: "This is dishonesty, ingratitude and a civilian coup against the parliament." He was speaking ahead of the vote.

The first full day of the state of emergency was possibly the calmest all week. Shops largely opened as normal and people commuted to work by public transport without problems, though the lira's value has been falling rapidly.

Kurtulmus and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag have both said the state of emergency could end up lasting only six weeks.

"Our goal is to make the state of emergency as short as possible," Kurtulmus said, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Gulen, who was born in Turkey and has lived in the United State since 1999, has denied any involvement in Friday's attempted coup. The US says it has yet to receive enough evidence to weigh an extradition.

Ankara has long accused the cleric of running a "parallel structure" in Turkey.

Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek insisted the state of emergency would not curtail basic freedoms, including restrictions on movement, gatherings and free press. He pledged financial discipline would be maintained and that liquidity would not be a problem for markets.

Government supporters have called for the death penalty for coup plotters. Parliament would first have to pass a measure to reinstate capital punishment, banned in 2004, and Erdogan said he would sign it if it came to his desk.

Bringing back the death penalty could spell the end of Turkey's bid to join the European Union, with allies in the West urging the government to act with restraint as it deals with the coup's fallout.

The death penalty would be a "fair punishment" for coup plotters, Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan's main spokesman, told broadcaster A Haber, adding that reinstating the penalty is on the government's agenda.

Government supporters have flocked to squares and main high streets across the country since Friday to celebrate the victory of the civilian government over the coup, which appears to have been largely carried out by a group within the army.

The government has repeatedly thanked citizens for risking their lives during the hectic hours of the coup attempt and taking to the streets in what turned out to be successful actions preventing the coup plotters from being able to carry out their plans.

But among critics of the government there is concern. Some social media users, for example, said they have deactivated their accounts, fearing a clampdown.

Last update: Thu, 21/07/2016 - 19:14
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