The Turkish parliament has voted to launch the constitutional reform bill that will give current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan executive powers. Debates on the 18-article new constitution began yesterday after the draft was agreed by a parliamentary commission.
338 MPs voted in favour of advancing the new bill to the second stage, while 134 voted against. The pro-Kurdish rights, leftist Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) boycotted the vote saying they would, "not be party to a crime." The Republican People's Party (CHP) is also against the bill.
The constitutional reform, which has been dubbed 'the executive Presidential system' will give Erdogan the power to appoint and dismiss government ministers, regain his affiliation with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and stay in power until 2029.
The proposed constitution is expected to lead to the creation of the posts of vice presidents and the abolition of the office of prime minister.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim defended the change, saying, “There needs to be one authority in the executive branch... Two captains sink the ship, there needs to be one captain.”
The proposal needs the support of at least 330 deputies to qualify for a national referendum. The ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is also supporting the new bill, which Erdogan has framed as being imperative for Turkey to remain a unified state.
Jailed HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas commented on the change from prison and said the arrest of 12 HDP deputies for alleged ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) had stripped them of their chance to challenge the draft constitution and “makes the debate and the vote controversial from the very start”.
The crackdown on Kurdish politics, which has seen the arrest of thousands of Kurdish activists, party members and activists since July's coup attempt, is being viewed as an initiative to silence the only opposition standing in Erdogan's way for a one-man-rule.
The change, which will have important ramifications for Turkey and the region is expected to be put to referendum by the spring.
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