Turbulent times in parliament: A new normal for Turkish politics?

Turbulent times in parliament: A new normal for Turkish politics?
Turkish main opposition Republican People (CHP)'s lawmaker Enis Berberoglu speaks in Ankara on June 4, 2020 after Turkish parliament stripped him and two others from the HDP of their jobs. (AFP)
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Updated 06 June 2020

Turbulent times in parliament: A new normal for Turkish politics?

Turbulent times in parliament: A new normal for Turkish politics?
  • Two deputies from the HDP and one deputy from the main opposition CHP lost their positions on Thursday
  • Insights from Ankara suggest two more parliamentarians from the HDP may be stripped of their seats soon

ISTANBUL: After three opposition politicians were stripped of their status as members of parliament in Turkey on Thursday, June 4, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) made it clear that a new period had begun in Turkish politics, given the country’s preoccupation with economic deterioration and rising unemployment that has already rendered many voters disenchanted. 
Two deputies from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and one deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lost their positions, and were arrested in an overnight operation on terror charges.
The Kurdish politicians, Leyla Guven and Musa Farisogullari, were detained, while the CHP deputy, Kadri Enis Berberoglu, was released from police custody after less than 24 hours as part of anti-coronavirus measures in Turkish prisons. Several HDP deputies were later beaten by police during a protest in Ankara over the imprisonment of their colleagues.
Insights from Ankara suggest two more parliamentarians from the HDP may be stripped of their seats soon as their files are being reviewed by the Turkish Court of Cassation. 
The crackdown on opposition figures does not end with politicians. The government is also working on a legislative change to the way bar associations elect their board members. Fifty bar associations recently released a joint statement against any move to limit their power and to increase pressure on the country’s already weakened judiciary.
The AKP and its coalition partner, the Nationalist Movement Party, are also working on another legislative amendment to ban the transfer of parliamentary deputies to other parties over fears that newly founded opposition parties could be strengthened with the transfer of deputies from the CHP to take part of upcoming elections.
Ten new political parties were established in Turkey over the past five months, bringing the total number to 91 — two of them, the Democracy and Progress Party, and the Future Party, to target disillusioned AKP voters and liberal segments of society.
“Turkey has been a consolidated authoritarian state for some time and attacks on the HDP are certainly not new,” said Paul T. Levin, director of the Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies.
“Going after the CHP would be a dramatic escalation, but they have been focused on Berberoglu for some time due to his involvement in the arms truck scandal,” he told Arab News.
Berberoglu, a former journalist, was arrested for providing dissident daily newspaper Cumhuriyet with confidential footage of Turkish National Intelligence Organization trucks allegedly carrying weapons to Syria.
According to Levin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be trying to weaken the opposition in advance of a snap election, that is widely expected to be held next year.  
“As for the bar associations, they have long been an important source of opposition to attempts to undermine the rule of law. It would really be a terrible blow to what remains of judicial independence if they were neutered,” he said.
There are still dozens of Kurdish politicians behind bars in Turkey, including parliamentarians, mayors and the party’s former co-chairs. The HDP released a statement following the arrests of Guven and Farisogullari, and said: “Turkey now witnesses yet another coup — this pro-coup mindset has been prevailing in parliament for 26 years.”


Israel sends Palestinians over $1 billion in withheld funds

Updated 02 December 2020

Israel sends Palestinians over $1 billion in withheld funds

Israel sends Palestinians over $1 billion in withheld funds
  • The Palestinians stopped coordination with Israel in May in response to Israeli plans to annex parts of West Bank
  • Israel later put its annexation plans on hold

RAMALLAH: Israel has released more than $1 billion in funds withheld from the Palestinian Authority, a Palestinian minister said Wednesday, weeks after coordination was renewed between the two sides.
“The Israeli government transfers all financial dues of the clearance to the account of the Palestinian Authority, amounting to three billion and 768 million shekels,” civil affairs minister Hussein Al-Sheikh wrote on Twitter, referring to taxes, including customs taxes, that the Jewish state collects on behalf of the PA.

In May, the Palestinians stopped coordination with Israel, with PA leader Mahmud Abbas saying it was in response to Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank.
Israel later put its annexation plans on hold, in return for an agreement to normalize ties with the United Arab Emirates, announced in August.
In halting the cooperation with Israel, the PA also stopped accepting transfer of taxes — particularly customs duties — collected by Israel on its behalf.
Earlier in the week, an Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity that the “security cabinet approved transferring the money to the PA,” without specifying the amount.
Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said on Monday the Palestinians were “entitled” to the funds, expected to relieve pressure on a Palestinian economy in the grips of a severe budgetary crisis.
Officials “will take everything they are owed. They have been patient for months and it’s only a matter of a little more time to make everything clear,” Shtayyeh said.
Deprived of this income, the PA had to cut the salaries of its civil servants, at a time when the Palestinian economy had begun grappling with the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.