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Rules for plenary sessions

Both the 1914 and the 1927 rules mention that plenary sessions were usually open to the public, but could be made nonpublic or secret upon a request by at least 15 deputies or by a minister. Nonpublic sessions were relatively frequent in the 1920s and especially common when ministers were grilled about possible cases of misconduct or corruption. In those nonpublic or secret sessions that I have studied, there is a sense of disappointment among the deputies, who had expected to hear more, or had anticipated disciplinary consequences that eventually did not materialize.146

According to §44 of the 1914 text and §81 of the one from 1927, a plenary session was only valid if more than half of the deputies showed up. In both public and secret sessions, the chairman would have a list of speakers, and only those on the list were allowed to speak. Interruptions were officially illegal, but, at least in the TBMM, appear to have been fairly normal: the minutes convey the impression of a natural discussion, with frequent short comments being made and questions asked to the speakers. (§84 of the 1927 text mentions the possibility for deputies to ask the chairman for permission to make short comments). Speakers had to speak from the lectern and were not allowed to speak for longer than 15 minutes (so, filibustering was not possible, §48). This rale was not applied to government policy statements. (Ataturk’s famous six-day speech of 1927, known simply as “the Speech” (Nutuk) in Turkish, was delivered at a Party congress.)

As before, bills had to be read twice before they could be voted on, and they had to be scrutinized by at least one commission before they could be put to vote. The rale introduced in 1877 according to which at least five days needed to pass between the first and second reading, in order to allow deputies to contemplate the bill, was maintained (§63 in 1914, §76 in 1927). It was possible to declare a bill “urgent” and have the assembly vote on that matter. If a bill was approved as “urgent,” it could be passed without a second reading. The new rales passed in 1927 also mention that the rale could only be changed upon written request submitted by the government.

Both nizamnames mention three kinds of voting: open voting by raising hands, open voting by calling every single deputy and him shouting “yes,” “no,” or

Ottoman parliamentary procedure 237 “abstention,” and finally, secret voting, either by name or without it, with colored pieces of paper.147 This, too, was a continuation of the 1877 rules.

The most obvious deviation of the TBMM practice from the 1914 nizamname is the number of chairmen. Unlike his predecessors in Ottoman times, the official TBMM Chairman was also (de facto) state President and head of the government. Mustafa Kemal, who was elected to that office in April 1920, clearly was not interested in chairing the parliament in its day-to-day affairs, preferring to act as a grey eminence in the background. (He was more of a night person, and important policy decisions were usually anticipated at his rakt table.) He needed the title of parliament Chairman merely as a source of legitimization for his de facto office of state President. Therefore, the three (rather than two) vice chairmen were the de facto “real” chairmen until 1923, when Mustafa Kemal became President of the new state.

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