Tuesday, December 20

Tuesday, December 20

Turkey’s parliament begins debating President Erdogan’s constitutional reforms.

TURKISH MPs BEGIN DEBATING PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM

Turkey parliament

Photo: EPA Ahyan Arfat

On Tuesday, a parliamentary commission in Turkey will begin discussing reforms that will create a strong presidential system. While the presidency is officially a weak, ceremonial position, President Erdogan has used his immense popularity and political savvy to transform it into the most powerful office in the country. Now he wants to make that change permanent.

The proposal, submitted by Erdogan’s ruling AK Party in coordination with the right-wing MHP, substantially increases the powers of the presidency and abolishes the role of prime minister. The reforms also increase the scope of immunities enjoyed by the president and expand the parliament from 550 seats to 600.

Meeting for its first debate tomorrow, the commission will report its findings to the general assembly by early February, after which a parliamentary vote on whether to accept the changes will be held. The AK Party requires 330 votes to take the reforms to a referendum. With only 317 MPs, the party must rely on support from the nationalist MHP, which has 39 MPs. If, as expected, the proposal receives at least 330 votes, a referendum will be held sometime in April; if it receives more than 367 votes, the changes will be adopted immediately.

The opposition Republican Party has submitted its own proposal and says the AK Party’s reforms could lead to increased authoritarianism. However, it appears unlikely the opposition will be able to muster enough support to block Erdogan’s reforms.