Turkish lawmaker chains self to rostrum, sparks new brawl

Suzan Fraser - Associated Press

ANKARA — A Turkish legislator handcuffed herself to parliament's rostrum on yesterday to protest against a reform package that would give President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office executive powers. The move sparked fighting between female legislators that reportedly resulted in two of them being hospitalized.

Independent legislator Aylin Nazliaka attached herself to the microphone, forcing parliament's deputy speaker to twice call a recess and halt debate on the draft constitutional amendments for some two hours.

During the recess, a group of female legislators failed to convince Nazliaka to end her protest. One legislator proceeded to unscrew the microphone leading to a row between women from the ruling party and the opposition.

The lawmakers soon came to blows, shoving and slapping each other, television footage showed. Pervin Buldan, a deputy speaker from the pro-Kurdish party, was hospitalized after reportedly being kicked in the chest.

Safak Pavey, a disabled legislator from the main opposition party, told Hurriyet newspaper she was pushed to the ground by a ruling party member while a colleague was "dragged by her hair."

The atmosphere remained tense when the assembly reconvened with opposition party members demanding that the speaker sanction a ruling party legislator, Gokcen Enc, whom they accused of attacking their female colleagues. "Justice, justice, justice!" they were heard shouting.

The ruling party later said Enc was also hospitalized for alleged blows to her neck and back.

It was the third time that deliberations on the proposed amendments gave way to brawls.

Last week, ruling party and opposition lawmakers scuffled, and one ruling party legislator claimed he was bitten on the leg.

The ruling Justice and Development Party, founded by Erdogan, says that a strong presidency is needed to strengthen Turkey as it faces an array of threats.

Critics say the changes would give too many powers to Erdogan, who is accused of displaying authoritarian tendencies.

A final vote on the proposals is expected Friday or Saturday. If approved by parliament, the reforms would be put to a national referendum.

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