Turkey approves constitutional reforms to expand presidential powers

Ankara, Jan 13 (IANS) Turkey’s parliament on Friday approved a series of controversial constitutional reforms that grant extensive powers to the President.

In a session that extended from late Thursday to early Friday, Turkish lawmakers approved three of 18 articles, including one that names President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “head of state” and grants him the right to rule by decree, Efe news reported.

Should the full set of reforms be approved by parliament and by popular referendum, the President would now have the right to name and fire Vice Presidents, ministers and high-level civil servants.

He would also be able to govern without needing parliament to approve his decisions and could return proposed laws to Parliament so they will change them or else send them directly to the Constitutional Court to be scrapped.

The reforms would grant Erdogan the power to name 12 of the 15 members of the Court.

Another significant change is that the President will now be able to continue being a member of, or even leading, a political party.

In the current situation, in which the governing Justice and Development Party — which Erdogan founded and unofficially leads — holds absolute majority, the reforms mean the President would now control the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the government.

Another five articles were approved on Wednesday, with another 10 still due to be voted on.

Once they are all individually approved, the reforms need to be approved as a whole then voted on in a referendum.