Turkey's fractured opposition must unite to overturn security laws

Turkey's fractured opposition must unite to overturn security laws
3 min read
08 Jul, 2015
Comment: Oppressive police powers can only be repealed if the wide array of opposition forms a short-term government, writes Mat Nashed.
Turkey's police have a wide range of powers at their disposal [AFP]
Police in Turkey were awarded expanded powers earlier this year by President Recip Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development party (AKP).

Officers were permitted by the controversial security bill to use lethal force against protestors holding "injurious" items and detain citizens for up to two days without court permission.

Drafting of the law began after Kurds protested en masse against the government's refusal to let them cross into Kobane to protect their people from the Islamic State group.

In October 2014, 34 people died, 360 were injured and 1,000 were detained for demonstrating.

Human rights groups have said the law threatens the citizenry's freedom to assemble. And since thousands of Kurdish children have been arrested for throwing stones over the years - on the grounds of suspected "membership of a terrorist organisation" - activists say the new law now gives police authority to shoot them instead.

But while Turkey's main opposition parties united against the bill, they could do little to reverse it, until now.

Uniting against AKP

During the country's parliamentary elections, AKP failed to acquire a majority rule and are now pressed with forming a coalition. Early elections will be called if they're unable to do so.

However, an alliance between the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the ultra-right Nationalist Movement Party, supported by the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP), would isolate AKP and enable the new government to reverse the very bill they opposed just months ago.

Since the bill allows governors to issue arrest warrants without consent from prosecutors or judges, annulling it is necessary to ensure the separation of legal powers: a goal shared by all of AKP's opponents, despite their polarising platforms.

And though their alliance would be short-lived, the possibility that they form a government seems more unlikely than ever.

MHPs reluctance

On June 19, MHP's leader, Devlet Bahçeli, told reporters that he refused to form a government with CHP.

He added that any coalition should include AKP - since they won the largest share of the national vote. But an MHP/AKP alliance would require Erdogan to curb his involvement in his party's affairs.

Now the president of the republic, his duties are largely symbolic compared with those of the prime minister.

And because MHP considers any dialogue with the PKK as an act of treason, AKP would have to abandon the very peace process it instigated. This development would almost certainly incite new demonstrations among Kurds in eastern Turkey and permit officers to use the full force of the new security bill to repress their dissent.

But regardless of the government that forms, by maintaining such expansive police powers, the state will threaten the rights of those who they are obligated to defend.