Sunday, April 10, 2011

Running for Parliament from Jail

A number of people currently under arrest in the ongoing mass trials of Ergenekon and KCK suspects have appeared on party lists of the CHP, MHP, and BDP. Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek said on Sunday that pre-trial incarceration is not an obstacle to running for parliament, but the prospect of these people winning seats does raise questions about the June elections. From Hurriyet Daily News:
The 14th Amendment of the Turkish Constitution says that suspects cannot be granted legislative immunity, meaning the courts must decide to release these figures and suspend their sentences in order for them to serve in Parliament.

On its candidate list released Monday, the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, nominated Başkent University’s rector, Professor Mehmet Haberal, for Zonguldak, journalist Mustafa Balbay for İzmir, and former Ankara Chamber of Commerce head Sinan Aygün for Ankara. All three are suspects in the ongoing Ergenekon case, with Haberal and Balbay under arrest, and all three are placed high on the party’s list and will likely be elected.

The fact that Haberal and Aygün do not come from a leftist or social-democratic background was criticized within the party at the assembly for the final determination of candidates.

Retired Gen. Engin Alan, an arrested suspect in the Sledgehammer case, was nominated by the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, for the first spot on the list for Istanbul’s first region. Ergenekon suspect Tuncay Özkan, who applied to the CHP as a candidate, was left off that party’s list, however, and will thus enter the election as an independent candidate.

Former police chief Hanefi Avcı, a suspect in both the Ergenekon and the leftist Revolutionary Headquarters organization trials, will run as an independent candidate for Istanbul.

. . . .

Other jailed suspects who will run as independent candidates include retired general and top Sledgehammer suspect Çetin Doğan for Istanbul, as well as retired gendarmerie Col. Hasan Atilla Uğur for Antalya and politician Doğu Perinçek for İzmir, both Ergenekon suspects. All three will run from the list of the Union of Republican Strength, an ultranationalist bloc against the ruling party.

The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, formed an electoral bloc with small Kurdish or socialist parties called the Freedom and Democracy Bloc. The independent deputies list to be supported by this bloc include suspects from the ongoing Diyarbakır case against the Kurdish Communities Union, or KCK, such as Hatip Dicle for Diyarbakır, Faysal Sarıyıldız for Şırnak, İbrahim Ayhan for Şanlıurfa, Kemal Aktaş for Van, Selma Irmak for Şırnak and Gülseren Yıldırım for Mardin.
Some might ask how a candidate running from jail could possibly gain enough popular appeal to be elected? The Ergenekon and Sledgehammer investigations in which the CHP and MHP candidates are suspected are held with quite a bit of scorn by a large number of Turkish voters, and so placing these candidates on party lists draws on that frustration and does not necessarily detract from the votes they get. That said, the Turkish constitution makes their actual entry into parliament difficult.

In the case of the BDP candidates who are part of the KCK trial, the BDP has opposed the KCK trial as a political witch hunt since the day it started and its supporters are could be all the more influenced to vote for arrested persons. Interestingly, the election of a BDP candidate wrapped up in a trial and facing potential prison time could be fertile ground for more protest -- a display of civil disobedience akin to Irish Republicans' election of Bobby Sands to Westminster.

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