Turkish parliament approves bill enhancing presidential powers

Grand National Assembly of Turkey

Turkey’s Grand National Assembly on Saturday approved a new draft constitution that will greatly expand the powers afforded to the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The reform bill, which will transfer executive power from the Prime Minister to the President, was approved by 339 of the 550 member parliament, with 142 deputies casting no votes.

The 18-article change has been dubbed the ‘presidential system’ by detractors, who say it will lead to an authoritarian one-man regime. The change will mean Erdogan can keep ties with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which he founded, restructure the nation’s highest judicial body and stay in power until 2029.

The President will be also able to appoint top public officials, including ministers, assign vice presidents and declare state of emergency.

The main opposition parties, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) have criticised the bill as eroding hopes of a democratic constitution and not being the answer to solving Turkey’s longstanding problems. The pro minority-rights HDP has already launched a no campaign against the change.

The ruling AKP brought the bill to Parliament and has argued that it will strengthen Turkey’s resolve against an array of organisations the country is fighting. The bill received the support of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to pass through parliament.

The bill is expected to go to a referendum in April and will become law if it receives more than 50% of the vote.