Turkish MPs back debates on bill extending presidential powers

January 10, 2017 3:00 pm

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is applauded as he delivers a speech during a parliamentary session in Ankara, January 9, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

A new draft constitution long sought by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which will considerably enhance his remit, has passed its first parliamentary hurdle.
The lawmakers started debating the draft on Monday. It was then put to its first vote at the 550-member legislature, with 338 supporting debates on the proposed 18-article constitution.
The proposal needs the support of at least 330 deputies at the parliament to qualify for being put to national referendum.
The ruling Justice and Development Party, which has been founded by Erdogan, has 316 deputies eligible to vote on the bill and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) 39. The latter is widely known as the “AKP’s lifeline,” having repeatedly lent it political support at defining junctures.
The first vote is largely viewed as a foretaste of how the bill will be treated throughout the rest of the debates, which comprise two readings and are expected to take some two weeks.
If signed into law, the proposal will usher in a presidential system for running the country as opposed to the current parliamentary one.
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.
Under the new rules, the president can also take back the helm of the ruling party, and appoint and dismiss deputy presidents as well as ministers at will.
Those in favor say it will spearhead the country’s exit out of the current volatility, marked by sporadic terror attacks and the aftereffects of last July’s failed coup.
At Monday’s debate, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim defended the mechanism, saying, “There needs to be one authority in the executive branch… Two captains sink the ship, there needs to be one captain.”
Opponents, though, say the proposed system heralds totalitarianism.
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