IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong stressed the importance of a diverse parliament that is representative of all groups and views in the country as a fundamental principle of democracy, at a meeting with the Turkish opposition MP Selahattin Demirtas in Geneva. Demirtas heads the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP).
During discussions at IPU Headquarters held on 3 June, Secretary General Chungong said it was critical that in a multi-ethnic State such as Turkey, parliament must not only reflect that fact but should also ensure that all political voices were able to exercise their parliamentary rights safely.
Reiterating concern at the recent vote in the Turkish Parliament on a constitutional amendment that would allow the wholesale lifting of parliamentary immunity of MPs, the IPU Secretary General stated that the international parliamentary community became preoccupied whenever and wherever the integrity of parliament was threatened.
If the constitutional amendment is signed off by President Erdogan, it will trigger a blanket removal of immunity for 138 MPs, the vast majority of them from opposition parties, facing allegations ranging from supporting terrorist organizations to insulting the President. IPU believes parliamentary immunity should only be lifted on a case-by-case basis when supported by credible evidence, to avoid politically-motivated legal proceedings.
Underscoring the importance of political dialogue and other non-violent means of resolving political differences as core principles of democracy, Mr Chungong said it was important to convince those groups that used arms for political objectives, to drop them and to bring them to the dialogue table. Demirtas, who is among the 138 MPs who would be affected by the lifting of immunity and would subsequently face 87 charges, stated his party condemned violence and advocated an alternative to violence in the quest for greater political and cultural autonomy for Kurdish people.