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I. Formal Rules Regarding the Procedures of the Grand National Assembly
The legislative organ of Turkey is the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (GNA). The GNA has a unicameral structure; laws and parliamentary decisions are passed by the GNA in plenary session. The GNA is composed of 600 Members of Parliament (MPs). According to article 95 of the Constitution, the GNA determines its own rules of procedures with a Bylaw that it adopts.
The GNA elects a President of the Assembly (PA) twice every legislative term (the first PA is elected for two years, and the second for the remaining three years). The PA is responsible for representing the GNA outside of the Parliament, ensuring the Bylaw of the GNA and the parliamentary procedures therein are respected by the MPs, and overseeing the operations of the administrative staff of the GNA.
The minimum quorum for any meeting must be one-third of the total number of MPs unless a special quorum is required by the Constitution; in any case, no decision may be adopted with less than one-fourth of the total number of MPs. A quorum for parliamentary commissions is one-third of all commission members. If the PA is in doubt that a plenary meeting has a quorum, he or she may ex officio request a headcount before opening the meeting; a count may also be requested during a final vote on a decision or legislation by a motion made by at least twenty MPs. In practice, the PA or the PA’s deputy determines the existence of a quorum at the beginning of all meetings, which is reflected in the minutes.
The Constitutional Court, which has the authority to review and nullify legislation for nonconformity with the voting rules of the Bylaw of the GNA upon request of the President of the Republic or one-fifth of the total number of MPs, generally presumes the quorum finding of the PA to be correct if no objections were made during the meeting.
B. No Extraordinary Provisions for Continuity of Activities
There are no provisions in the Constitution or the Bylaw that foresee a situation in which an elected GNA cannot physically convene due to compelling reasons. In particular, there is no procedure for the delegation of the authority of parliamentary commissions or the plenary to an ad hoc body, such as an “emergency parliament” with devolved powers. Article 7 of the Constitution states that “[l]egislative power is vested in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey on behalf of [the] Turkish Nation. This power shall not be delegated.”
Furthermore, there is no provision that allows MPs to participate or vote remotely in parliamentary meetings. The Bylaw does not allow MPs to delegate their votes to their fellow MPs in the plenary, and MPs are, as a general rule, required to attend parliamentary meetings in person. MPs who miss five meetings in a month without permission from the PA or without a valid excuse may have their membership rescinded by the plenary with a majority of the total number of MPs. MPs who miss more than 45 days of attendance in a legislative year without permission or excuse forfeit three months of expense pay.
The Bylaw allows the GNA to take a recess for a maximum of three months within a legislative year. As a general rule, the recess starts on July 1; however, the plenary may decide to take a recess at a different date upon the proposal of the Advisory Committee. The Bylaw also allows the plenary to suspend meetings for a maximum period of 15 days upon the proposal of the Advisory Committee. The Bylaw does not provide a limit or condition for the plenary’s use of these authorities. The PA or the President of the Republic may call the GNA to reconvene during a recess or suspension.
II. Measures Taken during the COVID-19 Pandemic
The plenary’s authority to suspend meetings notwithstanding, the uninterrupted meeting of the GNA during the COVID-19 emergency appears to be appreciated by at least some MPs. For instance, minutes of the March 18 and 19, 2020, plenary meetings reflect multiple references by MPs commending the fact that the GNA is meeting and working during the emergency.
There appear to be social distancing measures in place during the plenary sessions whereby MPs try to spread out as much as possible in their sitting arrangements. The premises of the GNA appears to be regularly disinfected. Some have called for establishing regular COVID-19 testing for MPs, but it appears that no such measure has yet been adopted.
On March 23, the PA’s Office issued a circular ordering the administrative units of the GNA to reduce the number of staff that must be physically present on the premises of the GNA to the minimum required for the continuation of necessary and urgent tasks, using telework or staff rotation methods. Staff and managers out of rotation are to be granted administrative leave, while being available for immediate recall.
Previously on March 13, the PA had ordered the suspension of public admittance to the GNA premises until March 31. The PA had also urged MPs to postpone their meetings with guests and asked MPs who had been abroad recently not to come to parliamentary meetings for 14 days.
Political parties have cancelled their parliamentary group meetings, which are traditionally held on Tuesdays. Regular meetings of the plenary session on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are apparently continuing in accordance with the Bylaw of the GNA, with the latest (at the time of writing) plenary session having taken place on Thursday, March 24.
Prepared by Kayahan Cantekin
Foreign Law Specialist
 Id. arts. 88(2), 95.
 Bylaw of the GNA art. 10.
 Id. art. 14.
 Constitution of Turkey art. 96.
 Bylaw of the GNA art. 27(2).
 Id. arts. 57(1)-(2).
 Constitution of Turkey art. 7.
 Id. art. 84(4); Bylaw of the GNA art. 151.
 Bylaw of the GNA art. 153.
 Id. arts. 5, 6. The Advisory Committee of the GNA is constituted of the PA and the group leaders of the political parties that are represented in the GNA, or their deputies. Id. art. 19.
 Id. art. 7.
 See Minutes of GNA Plenary Session of March 18, 2020, supra note 15.
Last Updated: 12/30/2020