Turkish MPs back sweeping changes to constitution that would abolish office of prime minister, usher in executive presidency and end judicial independence

A controversial bill that critics say would bring about one-man rule for Turkeys president, Recep Tayyip Erdoan, has passed a key hurdle.

The parliament approved the two final sections of the 18-article new constitution after a marathon week of debating that began on 9 January and included sessions that often lasted late into the night.

The ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) mustered the necessary 330 or more votes a three-fifths majority needed to OK the constitutional change and send it to a referendum for final approval.

It will go to a second reading in the Ankara parliament that expected to start on Wednesday where the 18 articles will again be debated one by one.

The debates have been fractious and last week saw some of the worst fighting seen in the parliament in years with punches thrown, deputies bloodied and one lawmaker claiming to have been bitten in the leg.

The proposed changes, which will create an executive presidency for the first time in modern Turkey, are controversial and far-reaching.

The president will have the power to appoint and fire ministers, while the post of prime minister will be abolished for the first time in Turkeys history.

Instead there will a vice-president, or possibly several.

With Turkey already under a state of emergency for almost six months following the 15 July failed coup, the changes will also widen the scope of conditions in which the president can declare an emergency.

Parliamentary elections and presidential ballots will be held simultaneously, with the draft giving 3 November 2019 as the poll date.

The changes are opposed by the main opposition Republican Peoples party (CHP). The third largest party, the pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic party (HDP), is boycotting the vote.

A dozen HDP MPs including the two co-leaders are behind bars on charges of supporting Kurdish militants accusations they claim are political and cannot take part.

The AKP, which has 317 seats in the 550-MP chamber, lacks the necessary three-fifths super majority. But the changes have won the support of most MPs from the fourth party, the Nationalist Movement party (MHP).

The MHPs leader, Devlet Baheli, who took up the reins of the party in 1997, has emerged as the main ally of the AKP in the constitutional change.

Opponents have accused Erdoan of marching towards authoritarian rule and seeking total control in the aftermath of the failed 15 July coup.

This is a regime change. They should not try to cheat the people, said CHP leader Kemal Kldarolu, according to CNN Turk.

This structure will expose Turkey to much deeper problems.

The authorities insist that the changes are needed to make government more efficient and would be little different from the presidential systems in the United States or France.

The constitutional changes will boost our country. God willing no one will stand in the way of Turkeys new construction and rise, Erdoan said on Saturday.

The current constitution, adopted in 1982 in the wake of the 1980 military coup, guarantees independence of the courts from an organ, authority and office.

But the approved changes will allow the president to directly intervene in the judiciary, which Erdoan has accused of being influenced by supporters of his ally-turned-foe, the Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Glen who blamed by the government for the 15 July putsch.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/16/bill-to-cement-erdogans-power-passes-first-vote-in-turkey

Bill to cement Erdoan’s power passes first vote in Turkey
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