Tensions are high in Turkey's parliament over a constitutional reform package
One ruling party lawmaker suffered a broken nose in the brawl, state media reported
Lawmakers in Turkey brawled during a debate over constitutional amendments that would expand presidential powers, according to state news agency Anadolu.
The fight broke out on Wednesday shortly after opposition lawmaker Özgür Özel told ruling party lawmakers “You are trying to destroy yourselves when the TV is off and nobody sees. We won’t let it happen,” according to Anadolu.
Lawmakers were debating ending “parliament’s authorization to inspect ministers and the Cabinet.”
Shortly after Özel comments, fellow members of the main opposition Republican People’s Party encircled the speaker’s rostrum with arms joined, occupying the area in protest.
The fight broke out soon afterward, according to Anadolu.
One senior lawmaker with the ruling Justice and Development (AK) party suffered a broken nose, according to the report.
Tensions run high
Despite the brawl, the measure was passed Thursday in the 550-member assembly, Anadolu said.
Violent outbreaks are uncommon in Turkey’s parliament but tensions are high over the 18-article constitutional reform package, which has been put forward by the governing AK party.
The government has said that if the measures are passed by parliament, they will lead to a public referendum on replacing the current parliamentary system with a presidential model, Anadolu said.
Thursday is the fourth day of debate on the package of amendments. Thirteen articles are still to be debated and voted on, according to the news agency.
Opponents of the proposed constitutional changes fear the changes will give too much power to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Since an attempted coup in July, Erdogan has led an intense crackdown on government critics and the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, as well as those with alleged ties to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for the coup attempt.
Hundreds of military officers have been suspended, thousands of teachers have been dismissed, public servants sacked and media organizations shut down.
Journalist Onur Cakir reported from Istanbul and Laura Smith-Spark wrote from London.