Published: Sat, February 11, 2017
Global | By Maureen Mccoy

Turkish president approves constitutional overhaul bill

"The YSK will probably announce that April 16 is the appropriate date for a referendum", Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told reporters.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan approved constitutional amendments that would bring drastic changes to the country's political system on February 10, including a shift to an executive presidential system from the current parliamentary system, clearing the way for a referendum to be held on April 16.

Brawls erupted between lawmakers during debates over the bill, highlighting the divisive nature of the changes, the most far-reaching constitutional shift since the creation of modern Turkey in 1923. In 2014, he became president after having been prime minister since 2003.

There has been a particular crackdown on members of the opposition, academics, journalists and rights activists since a failed military coup in July previous year, after which the government declared a state of emergency.

Last month, the Turkish parliament approved a batch of constitutional amendments that would boost presidential powers, including granting the president the ability to appoint some top judges and declare a state of emergency.

NAN recalls that on Jan 19, the two largest opposition parties in parliament say the 18-article bill, which could enable Erdogan to rule until 2029, will fuel authoritarianism in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member and European Union candidate country.

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President Erdogan says the reform will provide stability at a time of turmoil and prevent a return to the fragile coalitions of the past.

"Everyone - those who say "yes" and those who say "no" will express their views", he said.

Citing a well-known saying of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the republic's founder, Erdogan said: "There is no defense line, but defense territory".

The main opposition has accused Erdogan - seen as increasingly autocratic after 14 years in power as both prime minister and president - of trying to decapitate parliament.

The new 18-article constitution would create an executive presidency similar to the system in the United States and France.

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