Erdogan signs immunity bill as another bomb rocks southern Turkey

By bne IntelliNews June 8, 2016

One police officer and two civilians were killed in a car bomb attack on the police headquarters in the south-eastern town of Midyat on June 8, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said blaming the attack on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The Midyat attack comes only a day after another car bomb targeting a police bus killed 11 people and wounded more than 30 in the heart of Istanbul on June 7, raising fears that violence that has engulfed the predominantly Kurdish provinces since the collapse of a two-year ceasefire is now spreading to the country’s other cities. No group has claimed responsibility for the Istanbul blast, but officials think the PKK is behind it. PKK militants regularly stage car bomb attacks on police and security forces in large Turkish cities.

In the meantime late on June 7, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a controversial immunity bill that critics say will only tighten his grip on power and is aimed at removing the pro-Kurdish opposition party HDP from parliament. The bill will lift lawmakers’ immunity, paving the way for the possible prosecution of members of HDP on terror-related charges. The recent bomb attacks will likely increase the government's pressure on HDP. Erdogan accuses the pro-Kurdish party of being the political extension of the PKK and has called for the prosecution of its MPs.

Fifty of HDP's 59 lawmakers may now face trials. The bill also targets 51 lawmakers from the main opposition party CHP to allow prosecutions of them on a range of charges, including insulting Erdogan. Atilla Yesilada, analyst at GlobalSource Partners Turkey told bne IntelliNews recently that Erdogan may wait for the courts to arrest 28 or more HDP deputies, which would trigger automatic by-elections, hoping AKP would steal at least 15 of their seats. According to the constitution, in cases where the number of vacant seats reaches 5% of the total number of seats (550), by-elections shall be held within three months.

Erdogan may also use the terrorist attacks as a pretext to keep the draconian anti-terror laws in place. The European Union wants Turkey to change these laws, as a condition for the block to grant Turks visa-free travel as part of a key migrant deal. Erdogan, however, refuses to do and has threaten to abandon the refugee agreement unless EU eases the visa conditions as soon as possible.

The effect of the latest bomb attacks on Turkish markets has been limited. Just like yesterday, investors were unmoved. Stocks rose 0.78% and the lira gained 0.64% against the dollar to trade at 2.8813 at 14:50 local time on June 8.

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