Turkish lawmakers pass first reading of constitutional amendments

Turkish lawmakers pass first reading of constitutional amendments
16 Jan

The first reading of controversial legislation aimed at boosting Turkey’s president has been passed by the country’s parliament.

The two concluding sections of the 18-article new constitution were approved on Sunday following a week of marathon debates.

During the session, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) gained the required 330 or more votes needed for constitutional amendments to be adopted and sent for final approval via a referendum. The second reading of the amendments is expected to start on Wednesday.

In accordance with the new changes, the country’s president will gain the power to fire and appoint new ministers and officials, and the post of prime minister will be removed from the Turkish government.

The package, proposed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been met with strong opposition from the Turkish legislature’s second- and third-biggest parties, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), respectively.

Critics say such changes to the constitution lead to totalitarianism as it places too much power in the hands of the president.

Ruling Justice and Development Party and main opposition Republican People’s Party lawmakers scuffle at the parliament in Ankara during deliberations over a controversial 18-article bill to change the constitution to create an executive presidency January 11, 2017.

The system, also known as executive presidency, will allow the president to serve two five-year tenures. Erdogan could thus end up staying in office for two more terms until 2029, with the next elections scheduled for 2019.

The changes will also increase the scope of conditions in which the president is authorized to declare a state of emergency.

The country’s state of emergency was extended for another three months earlier in the month after initially being placed a few days after the July 15 abortive putsch that began when a faction of the Turkish army declared that it had seized control of the country and the government of President Erdogan was no longer in charge.

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