This footage of a full-on brawl wasn’t filmed in a unsavoury bar… it was filmed in the Turkish parliament. On one side were deputies from Turkey’s ruling party, the AKP. On the other side were deputies from the pro-Kurdish opposition group HDP. And they both threw a lot of punches.
On April 29, a parliamentary commission was supposed to debate a government proposal to put an end to parliamentary impunity. Currently, deputies can’t be prosecuted.
But the law is controversial because, were this change to pass, several deputies from the opposition HDP party would face charges of “openly instigating people to hatred and hostility” and “being a member of an armed terrorist organisation.” Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the founder of the AKP, has accused the HDP of being a branch of Kurdish militant group PKK, which is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. The HDP denies these accusations. Moreover, they find it unjust that they’d be stripped of their impunity, but AKP members facing allegations of corruption would not be stripped of theirs.
So there’s a lot at stake. The discussion had not been going on long when a fight broke out between two AKP deputies and an Armenian HDP deputy. Things quickly descended into chaos.
According to NTV, despite the chaos, the fight resulted in nothing more than minor injuries for the brawling deputies.
But the footage itself paints a very damaging picture of the Turkish politicians themselves. This incident occurred during a time when Turkish parliamentarians are responsible for dealing with urgent, worrying issues. It happened against a backdrop of war in neighbouring Syria where there are frequent clashes between armed Kurdish groups and forces supported by Ankara. Moreover, there is fighting on Turkish soil between the armed Kurdish group, the PKK, and government forces.
Emre Demir is the editor in chief of “Zaman France”. He’s an expert in Turkish politics and he explained why things have become so tense between the AKP, the HDP and the PKK.
Fights have broken out before in the Turkish parliament, but they’ve never been this violent.
This whole messy incident has a complicated political context. In June 2015, the AKP lost the absolute majority in the chamber. For the first time, the HDP got close to 13% of votes.
But when the ruling party started being aggressive towards the PKK, their popularity ratings increased. In Turkey, which is majority Sunni and quite conservative, people like the idea of aggressive politicians.
The PKK had exactly the same problem. Their popularity ratings were dwindling. But when the conflict with the government started back up, their popularity increased.
The extremes on both side are gaining strength and, ultimately, it is democracy that is losing out.