İYİ Party (The Good Party) is the most critical party in the Turkish parliament. It is an opposition party the government cannot ignore. Yet, as demonstrated during the last legislative term that started on Oct. 1, 2019 and ended on July 29 at 7:14 a.m., after the passing of the social media censure law, just before the parliament entered its summer break, this does not mean it is a critical party as such.
In a political landscape dominated by men, it is noteworthy that the leader of İYİ Party is a woman. But as the government attempts to polarize society over nationalism, İYİ Party should be wary.
As Turkish politics have been reduced to a binary dichotomy between the government bloc and the opposition, İYİ Party plays a somewhat unifying and dampening effect in that regard. But while the government is out of touch with the people, the opposition is not tuned in with it either. When the people react fiercely to an issue, the opposition steps in as it realizes that the given issue has become popular. The opposition does little more than that.
In light of this, İYİ Party, which does its political homework, has strongly established its position and seeks to unify society, plays a critical role. Yet it remains insufficient.
While İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener is almost the only leader that keeps the parliamentary system on the agenda, the party itself is not as active as its leader in parliament. Bills pass in parliament behind closed doors, during flimsy general assemblies and after poorly conducted committee work. After all of that, bills pass with a 90 percent affirmative vote.
Certain opposition deputies claim nothing can be achieved through parliament, further contributing to the public’s distancing from the parliament, which, in fact, should serve as the country’s most democratic institution.
The opposition, which has 245 deputies, can never reach more than 200 votes during voting sessions in parliament. They have an average of 47 negative votes, which only tarnishes their image.
On January 2, the opposition bloc cast 182 negative votes against the Libya bill, which authorized the use of military force and 162 negative votes against the parallel bar associations bill. As for the partial amnesty bill, which introduced pardons for mafia members on April 13, only 50 opposition deputies voted against it. For the Africa Development Bank bill on March 25, only 13 negative votes were cast overall. And we all remember that only 36 deputies voted against the bill that overlooked the illegitimate operations of thermal power plants.
Hence, İYİ Party must do something to change this and restore the parliament’s crucial democratic role.
Throughout the 27th legislative term that began on Oct. 1, 2019 and ended after passing the social media censure law on July 29, 118 parliamentary sessions were held. Only 21 of them had to do with passing bills. On January 14, 15 and 28 and on April 7, only international agreements were voted and during those four sessions, a total of 31 international deals were ratified.
In 16 sessions, 24 laws and omnibus laws were passed in parliament.
In short, by coming to parliament only 118 times, one can participate in all general assemblies. If a deputy attends parliament for 21 days, they can vote for 55 laws. But regarding these 24 laws, let us examine the situation of the powers within the parliament.
During this legislative year, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was able to carry out propaganda by using the tools of the state. They were present in parliament with their 291 deputies and participated in these 24 votes at a turnout rate of 76 percent.
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which is a partner in the government coalition and used the means provided by AK Party, was present in parliament with its 49 deputies and had a participation rate of 59 percent in these 24 votes. It was highly involved.
What did İYİ Party do with its 37 deputies? While they were able to use 100 votes in these 24 bills, they only used 30 votes. In other words, İYİ Party, which has 37 deputies in parliament, acted as if it had 11 deputies. What is more, only 20 of these 30 votes were negative.
İYİ Party was never the first party to publicize a parliamentary bill. Though they are present in all committees, they never use it to the benefit the people. Their performance in parliament is weak. They have deputies who have never casted a negative vote. Some have never casted a vote at all. We wouldn’t even have noticed them if it hadn’t been for the Libya bill, which 34 deputies opposed.
While the leader of İYİ Party is not a member of parliament, she persistently keeps the parliamentary system on the agenda. Still, her deputies are not as active as she is in parliament. If they were, wouldn’t the situation be different?
With its deputies, advisors and its general administrative council, the party has nearly 200-person staff. As it is, it is larger than all of the country’s think tanks. It is the fifth largest party in parliament. Hence, if it held a debate over the strengthening of the parliamentary regime, with a foot in parliament, many things would change.
For instance, if they were to become a party that would publicize - within the first 24 hours - all bills that are brought into parliament, if they shared each committee meeting and if they opened their committee works to the public, wouldn’t it make a difference?
And if they opened their general assembly processes to the public, if they carried out a full court and all present parliament work with its 37 deputies, they would become the party that makes a difference in this country.
Only then would they reciprocate their leader’s call for a “strengthened parliamentarian regime.”
With such an approach, İYİ Party would be the voice of the people that long for a more democratic system. It may not make them a truly critical party. They would have to include all other parties in the process. But at least, they would be a critical party in parliament.
During the past legislative term, the government passed 24 laws with an average of 250 deputies. The average of opposition deputies that voted against bills was 47. Had İYİ Party mobilized, this figure wouldn’t be 47. The government would have found 247 deputies opposing it.
İYİ Party is the parliament’s most critical party. It can demonstrate this by showing the role and power of its much-desired “strengthened parliamentarian system” through the parliament itself.