* Opposition has enough MPs to force recall of parliament
* Parliament in recess because of March 30 local elections
* Erdogan says graft claims baseless, aimed at ousting him
By Gulsen Solaker
ANKARA, March 13 Turkey's opposition demanded on
Thursday a recall of parliament to hear corruption allegations
against four former ministers in a move which could spell
further trouble for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan ahead of local
elections on March 30.
Erdogan has cast the graft scandal as a plot to smear him by
Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based former ally with
influence in Turkey's police and judiciary. Erdogan has
responded to the scandal by reassigning thousands of police
officers and hundreds of judges and prosecutors.
Social media has been awash with snippets of leaked wiretap
recordings presented as evidence of wrongdoing, but the purge of
police and judiciary has brought investigations to a virtual
halt and few specifics on the core allegations have leaked out.
Police documents on the four ex-ministers were sent to
parliament in late February and a summary would usually be read
out on the floor. However, the assembly went into recess for the
election campaign period shortly afterwards and the files have
been kept under lock and key ever since.
Mehmet Akif Hamzacebi, a senior deputy from the main
opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), told a news
conference on Thursday his party had filed a parliamentary
petition with 132 signatures for the assembly's recall.
"The parliamentary speaker has no option other than to have
the records read and present the additional dossiers and
documents to deputies," Hamzacebi said, adding that failure to
accept the petition would violate Turkey's constitution.
Under parliamentary rules, speaker Cemil Cicek, who is a
member of Erdogan's centre-right AK Party, has a week to summon
the assembly for an extraordinary session.
A recalled session requires the attendance of at least 184
deputies in the 550-member assembly, which the CHP could achieve
with the support of the nationalist MHP and pro-Kurdish BDP
parties. Both have said they would back the move.
The police records concern former interior minister Muammer
Guler, former environment minister Erdogan Bayraktar, former EU
affairs minister Egemen Bagis and former economy minister Zafer
Caglayan, all of whom have left their cabinet positions since
the corruption scandal erupted on Dec. 17.
The ministers deny any wrongdoing.
The AK Party is expected to try to block a recall of
parliament which could see details of the allegations made
public just days ahead of municipal polls, widely seen in Turkey
as a referendum on Erdogan's leadership.
The party, which has presided over more than a decade of
rising living standards in Turkey, remains well ahead of its
rivals in opinion polls despite the corruption scandal.
(Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing
by Nick Tattersall and Gareth Jones)