Turkey to vote on expanding President Erdogan's constitutional powers

Turkey to vote on expanding President Erdogan's constitutional powers
Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, co-founded by President Erdogan - is chasing parliamentary votes to pass a bill which would expand the leader's powers following constitutional reform
2 min read
02 December, 2016
Turkey moves a step closer to autocratic presidency under Erdogan [Getty]
Turkey's parliament is set to vote next week on expanding the powers granted to whom critics say is an increasingly autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The constitutional reform could see Turkey's parliamentary system become a presidency, like that of France and the United States.

The proposal, put forward by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), co-founded by Erdogan, comes months after a coup tried and failed to unseat him.

"We will submit our proposal for constitutional reform to the Turkish national assembly next week," Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told journalists in Ankara on Thursday.

Yildirim said any changes would be put to the people in a referendum in "early summer" if "everything goes well" and it is approved by the parliament.

Erdogan was the country's first directly elected president - originally viewed as a ceremonial post - in August 2014, and has consolidated his powers in what opponents have said is a violation of the existing constitution.

Government officials argue a fully presidential system is needed to legalise what has become a de-facto situation.

But the move has angered many in the country due to Erdogan's ongoing crackdown on secular, leftist and pro-Kurdish politicians, in addition to those linked to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen - believed to be behind July's coup.

For the bill to pass, it needs 330 votes from the 550-seat assembly to put any changes to the constitution to a public vote.

While a super-majority of 367 votes are needed to approve the changes without public consultation, the government has assured that in this case, it would hold a referendum.

The AKP currently holds 317 seats including the speaker, falling below the number needed to go to a referendum.

To make up its shortfall, it has been chasing the support of the fourth-largest Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which has 40 MPs in the assembly.

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) have repeatedly said they would oppose the reforms but MHP support would be enough to go to a vote.

Yildirim made his remarks during a press conference with MHP leader Devlet Bahceli after the two men met to discuss the changes, with Bahceli telling reporters the meeting had gone "positively", hinting the bill would have enough support to pass.