Controversial Turkey bill extending Erdogan's powers passes first vote

Controversial Turkey bill extending Erdogan's powers passes first vote
Turkey's parliament votes in favour of constitutional changes that critics say will lead to greater authoritarianism under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
2 min read
16 January, 2017
The controversial bill will abolish the role of prime minister and Erdogan greater powers [Anadolu]
Turkey's parliament has voted in favour of a controversial bill that critics say will give greater autocratic powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The president's AK Party succeeded in securing the three fifths majority needed for the first round of votes, after a week of marathon debates that started on January 9.

"The constitutional changes will boost our country. God willing no one will stand in the way of Turkey’s new construction and rise," Erdogan said on Saturday.

Opponents of the constitutional changes argue that Erdogan will institute one-man rule in the country that he has ruled over first as prime minister and then president for a decade and a half.

Leading the charge against the changes is Turkey's main opposition, the Republican People's party [CHP].

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

"This structure will expose Turkey to much deeper problems."

Meanwhile, the third largest party in Turkey's parliament, the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic party [HDP], has chosen to boycott the proceedings.

Two of HDP's co-leaders and ten others are currently in detention over accusations of supporting Kurdish militants, thus barring them from the vote. The HDP has said that these charges are politically motivated.

The parliamentary debates over the bill have proven fractious, with lawmakers last week descending into an all-out brawl on the parliament floor. After punches and chairs were thrown, some deputies were left bloodied and one alleged having been bitten by a rival.

Turkish deputies were left bloodied after a brawl broke out over the controversial bill in parliament [AFP]

If passed, the proposed changes will create Turkey's first executive presidency, abolishing the post of prime minister.

This role, which has stood since the founding of modern Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Attaturk in 1921, will instead be replaced by a vice president.

Crucially, the constitutional changes will also allow the president to directly intervene in Turkey's judiciary. Erdogan and his allies allege has been infiltrated by supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based cleric who is accused of masterminding last July's failed coup.

This repeals the current constitution's guarantee of independence of the courts from an "organ, authority and office".

Allies of Erdogan, however, argue that these changes will prevent future coup attempts.

After passing the first round of voting, the 18-article bill will now go to a second reading in parliament that is expected to begin on Wednesday.