Lawmakers from Turkey's ruling and opposition parties traded blows Monday during a stormy parliamentary debate on constitutional changes that would see the president elected by popular vote.
President Ahmet Necdet Sezer last week rejected one attempt to introduce the changes which are being pushed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Trouble started in the assembly after independent deputy Ummet Kandogan brandished a newspaper photo of Sezer and Erdogan sitting next to each other at war games last week, reportedly without exchanging a word. Kandogan accused the president of harbouring "hatred" against Erdogan.
Several MPs from the AKP and the main opposition CHP exchanged punches and kicks, the Anatolia news agency reported as the state TRT channel stopped its live broadcast from the assembly.
"When the candidates of other parties are elected there is no problem, but when it comes to the AKP... they say the regime is under threat. This is a gross lie," AKP deputy Ayhan Sefer Ustun said at Monday's debate, broadcast by TRT.
"Parliament has been blocked and this package will resolve the blockage," he added.
Under Turkish law, constitutional amendments are voted in two readings at least 48 hours apart. The second round of voting is expected on Thursday.
The bill also calls for a once-renewable five-year presidential mandate instead of the current single, seven-year term and sets general elections every four years instead of five.
Recent public opinion surveys show that after four and a half years in power, the AKP is still Turkey's most popular party, leading rivals in the badly fractured opposition by a wide margin.
President Sezer's seven-year term officially ended on May 16.
Last Mod: 28 Mayıs 2007, 23:23