Acting Parliament speaker brings up gov’t pressure on media, judiciary in Parliament’s opening

“The lack of dialogue between the ruling and opposition parties results in pressure on the judiciary and the media,” said Deniz Baykal who, being the oldest deputy in Parliament, is serving as the acting speaker in the opening session.

Baykal, a heavyweight in the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), called on the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) not to shy away from seeking consensus with the opposition. Noting that based on the election results, the AK Party can establish a government alone, he warned that it should not disregard what the opposition says. “This situation has further increased the need for consensus rather than its elimination,” Baykal said.

In the Nov. 1 general election, the AK Party obtained a comfortable majority, winning a total of 317 deputies in the 550-member Parliament to come to power alone.

The request by acting Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who is also the chairman of the AK Party, to have priority in the oath-taking ceremony because he was scheduled to have a meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was rejected by Baykal, who told reporters before the session began that he had received no official demand about it. “It should be everybody’s primary duty to respect Parliament. … Parliament comes before everything,” Baykal said.

Following his speech at the opening of the assembly, Baykal was the first deputy to be sworn in. Leyla Zana, a deputy representing the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), purposefully said “the nation of Turkey” instead of “the Turkish nation” as she read out the text of the oath. Upon Zana’s violation of the text, Baykal requested for her to repeat the oath correctly but she instead walked out of the assembly.

Noting that Zana’s oath was not valid, Baykal said that she can be sworn in later if she so wishes. Baykal’s remarks received a round of applause from family members of the deputies who were seated in the gallery reserved for spectators. In return, Baykal said that those who had applauded should remain quiet as per Parliament’s bylaw and that otherwise, they would be removed from the building.

Before taking her oath, Zana also said in Kurdish, “With the hope of a lasting and honorable peace.” Zana’s remark is a reference to Turkey’s efforts to settle the country’s decades-old Kurdish issue and terrorism problem.

The settlement process the AK Party government launched at the end of 2012 to resolve it was suspended before the general election in June. Nearly 200 members of the security forces have been killed in attacks by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) since the ending of the de-facto cease-fire. The HDP — which, like the PKK, supports the idea of an autonomous Kurdish region in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast — does not want Kurds to be referred as part of the Turkish nation.

As is usual for Turkish presidents, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also present in Parliament during the oath-taking ceremony.

Erdogan, who headed successive AK Party governments before being elected president last year, was applauded by AK Party deputies and Cabinet ministers as he took his seat in the balcony. The president has been widely criticized by the opposition for acting in violation of the Constitution as if he was the president of the AK Party rather than of the whole nation.

HDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtas was not sworn in because he was in hospital for an operation.