Turkish Parliament Approves Constitutional Reform

The Turkish Parliament has approved key points of the constitutional reform which will allow the president to be a member of a political party and issue decrees.

These will have to be approved at two more readings before the package of amendments is submitted to a referendum which is expected in the spring.

Opposition parties fear that this will push the country in the direction of authoritarianism.

According to the planned amendments, the president may be elected for maximum two five-year mandates. These also envisage parliamentary elections in 2019.

turkey constitutional reform
Location of Turkey on World Map

Turkish parliament adopted the fifth article of a new constitutional reform package.

The article, which deals with regulations for job definition and responsibilities of the parliament, is one of the most discussed items, that seeks to end the parliament’s authorization to inspect ministers and the Cabinet.

The article was endorsed by 343 of the assembly’s 550 lawmakers.

To reach a referendum, the proposed changes must first be passed by 330 deputies. If it gets the support of 367 lawmakers it could pass into law without a referendum, although the AK Party said it would hold a popular vote regardless.

A simple majority must agree to the changes in a referendum.

The AK Party has 316 seats and Erdogan hopes the support of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which has 39 seats and last month agreed to back the package, will be enough to secure a referendum.

Other parties — the Republican People’s Party (CHP), with 133 seats, and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), with 59 deputies — remain opposed to a presidential system. Two independent deputies are split over support for the amendments.

Among the changes are plans for an elected president to form a government independently of parliament and for the role of prime minister — typically the person leading the largest parliamentary party — to be abandoned.

Parliamentary and presidential elections would be held on the same day every five years, instead of the current four for the parliamentary vote.

The president would be limited to two terms in office but would not be required to leave his or her political party.

When elected to the presidency in August 2014, Erdogan had to resign as AK Party leader due to the supposedly apolitical nature of the post.

In the judiciary, the Constitutional Court, Turkey’s highest court for constitutional affairs, would be reduced to 15 members for it’s current 17, while the justice minister would be added to the Supreme Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors, which deals with judicial and prosecution appointments.