The Turkish parliament has passed legislation that will alter the country's electoral regulations, sparking criticism from opposition members, who fear the change will undermine the fairness of 2019 elections.
A brawl erupted between nationalist lawmakers and parliamentarians from the main opposition party when the parliament's deputy speaker announced the voting result, Reuters reported on Tuesday. A number of MPs started a fist fight and shoved and chased one other in the chamber. The changes to electoral laws would also allow the ruling party to enter a formal alliance with the nationalist party, permitting the smaller party to gain parliamentary seats, even if it fails to pass the 10-percent electoral threshold. The ratification was widely anticipated given the combined support for the legislation by the AKP and the nationalist MHP.
The law also brings important amendments to the election procedure, including giving the government the right to appoint government officials to oversee ballot stations, call in the security forces and to move ballot boxes.
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. Security force members will be allowed into polling stations when invited by a voter, a measure the government says is created to prevent intimidation by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the mainly Kurdish southeast. The pro-Kurdish People's Democratic party sharply criticized the development, saying the government could move ballot boxes out of districts where the Kurdish party has strong support.
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.