In May 2016, Turkey’s main opposition party Republican People’s Party (CHP) offered full-throated support for a draft bill envisaged by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and envisioned the removal of parliamentary immunity of lawmakers involved in serious crimes. What those crimes would be were subject to legal machinations as much as the dynamics of realpolitik shaped by the ruling party’s unquestioned monopoly over the semantics of the law and political debate. Yet, the bill’s intended target was no secret: lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP).
In CHP’s endorsement laid a subtle but supremely naive assumption that the bill, if it ever became the law of the land, would hit President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party members like a boomerang back in the future. But what followed since then has only accentuated the fact the law became a very useful political weapon frequently deployed by the president’s party to re-design the landscape of parliamentary politics to their liking. The bill only worked against opposition parties, leaving the AKP ones out of the hook.
Yet, it has also served to keep the potential rebels within the AKP ranks under control if they ever cross the official line of their party or if they show the intention of defection while serving their term in Parliament. It is a double-edged sword deftly used by President Erdogan and his acolytes ever since both against their own party fellows and the opposition lawmakers.
This immunity folly manifested itself again recently when two Parliament members of the HDP were first deprived of their seats and then sent to jail in early June. A CHP lawmaker has conditionally been released over the Covid-19 threat in prison. When this happened, the opposition reaction was swift and loud. But it only presented a mirror into follies of their own making and reflected their short-sightedness in Turkey’s muddled political waters.