Turkey is on the threshold for shift to an executive presidential system as the parliament approved early Saturday an 18-item constitutional amendment package.
“A new door in Turkish history in the lives of the Turkish people has been cracked open today. With our people’s ‘yes’ vote, this door will be completely opened,” Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag posted on his official Twitter account.
Debate on the draft amendments, which would give President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office new executive powers, has been tense, resulting in brawls last week between ruling and opposition party MPs.
The amendment needed 330 votes from the 550-seat assembly to go for a popular vote and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahceli has lend support to the ruling party since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) holds 317 seats, falling below the number needed to go to a referendum. The MHP, which has 40 lawmakers in the assembly, has made up the AKP’s shortfall.
Erdogan can decide to put the constitutional changes to a referendum 60 days later, which is expected in April. If the proposed constitution is passed in the referendum, it would go into effect in 2019.
Under the current constitution, which was drawn up in 1982 after Turkey’s military coup, Erdogan’s power are symbolic, but the president has been exercising de facto executive role with the ruling party AKP which he founded in 2002.
If the amendment is passed at the referendum, the president will have a chance to be elected a five year term for twice. The charter change will allow the president appoint ministers and senior public officials as well as issue presidential decrees on issues related to executive power.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, whose leaders are behind bars on terror-related charges, are vehemently opposing a shift to the presidential system, arguing that it would lead to an authoritarian one-man rule.
Critics said that the presidential system will weaken separation of powers, erode checks and balances. The president will be able to bypass parliament and introduce legislation by issuing decrees laws.
Half of the members of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, which oversees all appointments and promotions in the judicial system, will be chosen by the president and the other half by parliament. The amendment makes more difficult impeachment of the president at the parliament.
The constitutional amendment will lead to the creation of the posts of vice presidents and the abolition of the office of prime minister.
The system, by its nature, will bring a de facto two-party environment on the Turkish political horizon in the medium term.
The right wing parties of ruling Justice and Development and Nationalist Movement Party have already allied for a presidential system on one side, while on the other side there are the left wing main opposition Republican People’s Party and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party rejecting the constitutional amendment. Enditem