Turkish parliament passes controversial voting law, as brawl ensues

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, March 6, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 13 March 2018
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Turkish parliament passes controversial voting law, as brawl ensues

ANKARA: Turkey’s parliament passed a law revamping electoral regulations on Tuesday, backing controversial legislation the opposition has said could open the door to fraud and jeopardize the fairness of 2019 polls.
After parliament’s Deputy Speaker Aysenur Bahcekapili announced the voting result, a brawl erupted between nationalist lawmakers and those from the main opposition. Several parliamentarians traded punches and shoved and chased each other in the chamber.
The legislation formally allows for the creation of electoral alliances, paving the way for a tie-up between President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party and their nationalist allies. It was widely expected to pass, given the combined support of the AKP and the nationalist MHP.
But government critics have sounded alarm over the law.
It grants the High Electoral Board the authority to merge electoral districts and move ballot boxes to other districts. Ballots will be admissible without the stamp of the local electoral board, formalising a decision made during a referendum last year that caused a widespread outcry among government critics and concern from election monitors.
Under the law, security force members will be allowed into polling stations when invited by a voter, a measure the government says will stamp out intimidation by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the mainly Kurdish southeast.
Opposition lawmakers, including from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), have said the presence of security forces at polling stations could be used to make vote counting less transparent.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party has said the measures could lead to ballot boxes being moved out of districts where it has strong support.


First Russia air strikes hit south Syria since 2017 truce: monitor

Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad began ramping up their air strikes and artillery fire on the zone. (REUTERS)
Updated 10 min 34 sec ago
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First Russia air strikes hit south Syria since 2017 truce: monitor

  • Russia, the United States, and Jordan agreed in July of last year on a de-escalation zone in rebel-controlled parts of southern Syria that would tamp down hostilities there
  • Intense Russian air strikes are hitting towns in Daraa’s eastern countryside for the first time since the cease-fire was agreed in southern Syria last year

BEIRUT: Russia bombed rebel-held areas in Syria’s south late Saturday for the first time since it agreed on a cease-fire there nearly a year ago, a monitor said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human said around 25 strikes slammed into rebel-held towns in Daraa, a province in Syria’s south that has faced escalating regime shelling in recent days ahead of an apparent ground assault.
“Intense Russian air strikes are hitting towns in Daraa’s eastern countryside for the first time since the cease-fire was agreed in southern Syria last year,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
The Britain-based monitor did not have any casualty figures.
Russia, the United States, and Jordan agreed in July of last year on a de-escalation zone in rebel-controlled parts of southern Syria that would tamp down hostilities there.
Since then, Moscow’s warplanes — active in Syria since 2015 — had refrained from bombing rebel positions in the south.
But violence has been ratcheting up this week as Syrian government forces look to retake the south militarily.
Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad began ramping up their air strikes and artillery fire on the zone on Tuesday, and at least 19 civilians in rebel-held zones have died since then, according to the Observatory.