Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party, known as the A-K, or AK, on Saturday submitted to parliament a bill granting extended powers to the Turkish presidency and abolishing the prime ministry, among other major changes.
The proposal, which contains 21 changes to the constitution, would scrap Turkey’s current parliamentary system and introduce an executive presidency, the move that most worries the president’s critics.
Erdogan and his supporters argue that the country needs the strong leadership of an executive presidency, like the U.S. or France, to avoid the fragile coalition governments that have held back its development.
The proposed changes will first be discussed at the relevant parliamentary commission before the bill is brought to a parliamentary hearing and if passed there, will be put to a referendum, hoped to be held in the spring of 2017.
MP Mustafa Sezgin Tanrikulu of the opposition center-right Republican People’s Party or CHP told Al Jazeera that the constitutional changes aim to “pool power in one person at a dangerous level and pave the way for an authoritarian regime.”
Tanrikulu, who is also a human rights lawyer, said “This is a bill that will move Turkey away from the principles of democracy and the rule of law,” and said his party will challenge the bill in the legislative process. If it is passed, they will campaign against the referendum.
The AK is seeking the backing of the nationalist far-right National Movement Party or MHP opposition to win approval for a national vote. A constitutional change needs the support of at least 330 deputies in the 550-seat assembly to go to a referendum. The AK has 316 lawmakers eligible for voting, and the MHP 39.
If the changes are approved, Turkey would hold general and presidential elections November 2019, and proposed powers would be granted to the elected president.
The proposed bill includes provision that the president be elected for two five-year terms. Erdogan’s existing time as president will not be counted in this. He could be president until 2029.
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