Turkish parliament sworn in with calls for peace

Turkey's new parliament was sworn in at a marathon session Saturday in a mood of conciliation following last month's landslide victory of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's governing party.

Turkish parliament sworn in with calls for peace
Turkey's new parliament was sworn in at a marathon session Saturday in a mood of conciliation following last month's landslide victory of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's governing party.

The spotlight Saturday was on 21 Kurdish politicians who won seats for the first time since the early 1990s.

But the deputies of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) seemed determined not to repeat the storm unleashed at the memorable swearing-in ceremony of 1991 by Leyla Zana, the first Kurdish woman to enter parliament.

The oldest member of the assembly, 83-year-old Sukru Elekdag of the opposition People's Republican Party, presided over the session pending the election of a new speaker.

Calling on the 550 lawmakers to "act with the good sense and sagacity of statesmen, without yielding to emotion, in a spirit of conciliation and dialogue," he invited them to swear, individually and in alphabetical order, fidelity to "the secular and democratic Turkish republic."

The 10-hour oath-taking session continued until after midnight (2200 GMT).

DTP leader Ahmet Turk and his colleagues shook the hand of Devlet Bahceli, head of the Nationalist Action Party, which backs a war against the armed PKK.

"Our ideas cannot be the same, but we are going to work under the same roof," Anatolia news agency quoted Turk as saying. "We are civilised people, we will have relations."

He also told CNN-Turk television, "We want to help in working out a peaceful and democratic process .... in a spirit of conciliation and dialogue: it is with these sentiments that we intend to accomplish our mission in parliament."

In 1991 Zana said she was taking the oath under duress and added a message of peace in Kurdish, breaking a taboo on speaking the language in public. She also wore a headband in the colours of the PKK, whose bloody campaign for Kurdish self-rule has claimed more than 37,000 lives since 1984.

In 1994, parliament lifted the immunity of Zana and her Kurdish colleagues on charges of aiding the PKK, which Ankara lists as a terrorist organisation.

Some of them, including Zana, were jailed for a decade; others went into exile or joined the PKK.

Since then Turkey, under EU pressure, has lifted emergency rule in the Kurdish-majority southeast and legalised broadcasts and private language courses in Kurdish.

Despite their peaceful rhetoric, the DTP members remain under suspicion of being a PKK tool, fuelled by their refusal to condemn the group as terrorist.

Army commanders, who traditionally make a short appearance at the ceremony, did not attend Saturday, officially because of a high-level military meeting.

Media reports, however, said the generals were reluctant to witness the inauguration of recalcitrant Kurdish members of parliament.

Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a fierce proponent of secularism, would not attend either, as he did after the 2002 elections.

Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) won 341 seats in parliament in last month's polls, followed by the Republican People's Party with 99 seats, the Nationalist Action Party with 70, the DTP with 20 and the Democratic Left Party with 13.

The remaining MPs are independents.

Erdogan was forced to bring elections forward from November after the AKP failed to install Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as Sezer's successor when an opposition boycott blocked two parliamentary votes in April and May.

Gul has signalled he remains a candidate for president, saying that the AKP's election victory reflects popular support for his bid.

A referendum on constitutional reforms initiated by the AKP in the wake of the turmoil over Gul's candidacy, including electing the president by universal suffrage instead of by parliament, will take place on October 21.

AFP
Last Mod: 06 Ağustos 2007, 02:02
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