AKP, MHP vote down opposition proposals for parliamentary inquiry into wildfires

Turkey's ruling AKP and MHP have voted down two separate motions submitted by the opposition calling for an investigation into forest fires in an effort to find long-lasting solutions to the issue. Meanwhile, Interior Süleyman Soylu called for higher punishments against those initiating forest fires, even bringing up the issue of the death penalty.

Duvar English 

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its junior coalition partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have voted down parliamentary motions calling for an investigation into the wildfires that have been raging across the country.

The parliamentary motions were submitted by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), according to reporting by online news outlet Diken.

The motions came after the latest wildfire in the Aegean coastal resort of Marmaris which has been continuing for the fourth day on June 24.

During a speech at the parliament's General Assembly, CHP MP Süleyman Girgün said that the fire in Marmaris had so far destroyed land equivalent to 4,035 football fields. “We are angry. I want to ask you: Didn't we raise our voices before? Didn't we tell you that this era is the era of fires and this issue needs to be taken seriously? [After last year's destructive fires in the region] The ecological disaster is awaiting at the door; the global warming is burning everything,” he said.

HDP MP Mahmut Toğrul also took the stage, criticizing the government for its inadequate response and the lack of modern firefighting planes and helicopters, despite last year's experience.

“The [forestry] minister is saying that the planes are coming on July 4 and the helicopter with the night-vision is coming on July 1. How is that you had already taken all the precautions? You are simply mocking the people,” Toğrul said.

After these speeches, the motions were put for a vote but were rejected by the votes of AKP and MHP lawmakers as the General Assembly.

Interior minister demands harsher punishments for forest burners, speaks of death penalty

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said that the police had detained a man who confessed to having started the fire following a row with family members. Soylu called for higher punishments against those initiating forest fires, even bringing up the issue of the death penalty.

"The punishments with regards to the forests need to be increased. The death penalty is being discussed in Turkey a lot. There is a deterrence of the death penalty. Yes, it does not sound nice but there is something else here. Such irresponsibility needs to have a strong penalty," Soylu said. 

Forestry Ministry Vahit Kirişci, meanwhile, said the fire may be close to being contained but the wind still poses a risk. “The distress is, to a great extent, over,” Kirişci told reporters, cautioning that the wind remains a threat.

More than 2,500 firefighters and 41 planes and helicopters have been so far deployed to fight the fire. On June 24, a plane from Azerbaijan and three helicopters from Qatar joined their efforts.

Scenes of burning woodland sparked fears of a repeat of last year's fires that devastated tens of thousands of hectares across the region.

Last summer's wildfires, most of which were also near Marmaris, were the most intense in Turkey on record, a European Union atmosphere monitor said last year, adding that the Mediterranean had become a wildfire hot spot.