ANKARA - TDN Parliament Bureau
Government is preparing to implement a major reform on political ethics, with a draft law that will address the most important political criteria in the national program regarding European Union accession.
Ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, will take measures to ensure deputies act within acceptable boundaries of political ethics and render their work more transparent. The AKP included provisions to establish a �political ethics commission� in the final draft for Turkey's third national program.
The law aims to render ministers' and deputies' work more accountable. Several limitations on commercial activities of parliamentarians are also imposed on lawmakers with the law draft, obtained by the Turkish Daily News.
�Having a self control mechanism, of course, will not be harmful,� said Emre Kocaoğlu, a former deputy in the Motherland Party, or ANAP. �But, we should consider that Parliament is a political board and the legal commissions established in Parliament have always felt the influence of the politics.�
The ethics commission will ensure that lawmakers and Cabinet members nominated from outside the Parliament fulfill their duties within boundaries of transparency, neutrality, honesty, accountability and public interest. The commission will be set up by deputies proposed by Parliament's advisory board and will be elected at the general assembly. Every political party at Parliament will be represented at the commission in proportion with the party's seats.
�The commission will be able to initiate an investigation on its own and upon applications it receives. It will also support activities that aim to enhance a culture of political ethics,� read the draft.
�I worked in similar commissions and understood that even though those commissions were composed of the jurists, they cannot inspect the parliamentarians,� said Kocaoğlu, former head of Turkish Democracy Foundation.
Commission armed with extensive authority
The political ethics commission will have the authority to demand any information and document from private and state institutions, lawmakers, ministers, and real and legal persons to execute its mission. The commission will make use of expert opinion and people concerned with its investigations. Its meetings will be private and it will submit its reports to Parliament within a month.
The law imposes new restrictions on commercial activities of deputies and ministers. They will lose the right to participate directly in contracting business. The new draft includes provisions to prevent deputies from assuming representative and administrative duties at professional institutions with official status, foundations benefiting from state aid or exempt from tax, and at other public legal persons.
The AKP addressed the issue highlighted by main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, parliamentary group deputy leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu's accusations against AKP deputy chair Şaban Dişli. Deputies are specifically forbidden to act as representatives, arbiters or advisers and they cannot follow business in exchange of payment, earn commission, or serve as general secretary, secretary, or under any similar titles.
�They cannot abuse their authority and position as parliament members to earn personal benefit. In execution of their profession or managing their enterprises, they cannot use their parliamentary or Cabinet titles,� read the draft.
International duties are also addressed by the draft. �A parliamentary decision will be needed for a deputy to accept a paid administrative or political duty, given by a foreign state or international organization,� according to the new draft.
Deputies will also be denied incentives, subventions or material support from the state. Moreover, the maximum credit limit they can draw from public banks or banks with public shares is set to 50 times gross deputy salary.
Commercial activities will be limited
Providing goods or services to the state will be ousted from deputies' allowed range of commercial activities. They cannot take any role -- paid or unpaid -- at banks, financial or insurance institutions and stoke brokers. Deals with real estate enterprises and public housing construction firms are also prohibited. Privatization activities will be out of their reach and they will be prevented from using classified data for private gains.
Lawmakers will not make use of state goods like buildings and personnel in their election campaigns. They have to act in compliance with the principle of equality before the law in all their activities. The ethics commission will also be responsible for permitting gifts to deputies.
The new law will oblige lawmakers to submit once each year their salary and rental revenues, income from production, stock market shares, interest rights, liabilities, and the sources, nature, scope and duration of their business to the parliament speaker's office.
The ethics commission will be able to prepare a report on deputies who violate the political ethics law, subjecting him or her to sanctions stipulated in the Constitution, relevant laws and internal regulations.
Project will be presented to the opposition.
The AKP seeks to finalize the draft as soon as possible by discussing it with the opposition. Opposition parties are generally warm to the project. The Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, welcomes the draft, and the Democratic Society Party, or DTP, also backs the regulations for the new ethics commission.
Meanwhile the Republican People's Party, or CHP, prioritizes eliminating immunities. Although the CHP conditioned its support on reducing parliamentary immunities, in principle it still favors the adoption of the law.
�A self-control mechanism is fine; it may at least have a psychological force,� said Kocaoğlu. �However, the real solution may be lessening the deputy immunities in all the spheres expect the political and legislative issues.�