By Emin Avundukluoglu
Turkey's parliament has approved a bill to lift the immunity of 138 MPs facing criminal charges, which paves the way for judicial proceedings to begin against them.
The bill will now be presented to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for final approval before it becomes law.
Turkey's parliament ratified the temporary amendment to the Turkish constitution bill Friday with “qualified majority” in three stages; the first stage voted on the bill’s first article, the second stage concerned the bill's second article, while in the third and final step, both articles of the bill were put to vote as a whole.
Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman announced in Grand National Assembly that the bill's joint voting stage received the backing from 376 MPs, while 140 lawmakers voted against it in the 550-seat parliament.
Earlier, Kahraman said the bill's second section received the backing from 374 MPs, while 136 lawmakers voted against it.
A total of 526 parliamentarians participated in the second part of the secret ballot process, out of which four MPs abstained, 11 cast blank votes and one vote was considered invalid.
Before the second stage, the parliament had ratified the first article of the same amendment bill.
According to Kahraman, the first part of the bill was backed by 373 MPs, while 138 lawmakers voted against it.
A total of 531 parliamentarians participated in this first part of the secret ballot process, out of which eight MPs abstained, nine cast blank votes and three votes were considered invalid.
The ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, which has 316 seats, and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party, also known as MHP, which has 40 seats, both backed the bill.
While the vote was taking place in the parliament, Erdogan said Friday he might pursue a referendum on lifting MPs’ immunity if the total number of lawmakers supporting the bill failed to exceed 367.
In remarks made during his appearance at Trabzon airport on his way to Turkey's northern Black Sea city of Rize, he said: "I hope the voting will be concluded today. If there is an outcome of votes between 330 and 367 votes, then what? Then we will go for the vote of our people to finalize this issue."
A total of 367 deputies or more "yes" votes were needed to get the approval in parliament, a target which was eventually achieved comfortably with 376 votes.
Out of the 138 lawmakers facing criminal charges, 27 belong to the ruling AK Party, 51 from the opposition CHP, 50 from the HDP, nine MHP and an independent deputy from Ankara, Aylin Nazlıaka, a former CHP member.