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Contentious electoral bill passes Turkish parliament, brawl erupts at legislature

Muslim Times(Web Desk) – Turkish lawmakers have approved controversial legislation that will overhaul existing electoral regulations, amid angry reactions by opposition politicians who say the new law would facilitate fraud.

Following the announcement of the voting result by the parliament’s Deputy Speaker Aysenur Bahcekapili on Tuesday, fighting broke out between nationalist legislators and those from the main opposition parties. A number of MPs started a fist fight and shoved and chased one other in the chamber.

The newly-passed law formally authorizes the establishment of electoral alliances, paving the way for the ruling AK Party to join forces with their nationalist allies. The ratification was widely anticipated given the combined support for the legislation by the AKP and the nationalist MHP.

This is while government critics have voiced caution over the law since it grants the High Electoral Board the authority to combine electoral districts and transfer ballot boxes to other districts.

Additionally, ballots will be admissible without the stamp of the local electoral board, legitimizing a decision made during a 2017 referendum that provoked widespread outcry among government critics as well as concerns from election monitors.

The law further provides for security forces to gain entry into polling station when invited by a voter, a measure that Ankara claims will stamp out intimidation by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the mostly Kurdish-populated southeast.

Meanwhile, opposition MPs, including those from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), have emphasized that the presence of police forces at polling stations would likely be used to make vote counting less transparent.

Moreover, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has warned that such measures could lead to ballot boxes being moved out of districts where the HDP enjoys strong support.

Prior to the voting, opposition lawmaker Muharrem Erkek censured the new bill, insisting that it would “shake the security of the ballots at the core,” while “fair representation is being abolished.”

The government has defended the new changes as necessary to ensure “electoral security” in Turkey’s southeast, citing an insurgency by Kurdish militants in the region.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously managed to secure changes in Turkey’s constitution to establish a new presidential system and abolish the once-powerful office of the prime minister.

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