AKP submits package to expand Erdoğan’s power

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General Secretary of Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP) Abdulhamit Gul (R) and Turkish Nationalist Movement Party's (MHP) deputy of Afyonkarahisar Mehmet Parsak (L) shake hands after addressing a press conference at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) in Ankara on December 10, 2016, after a constitutional amendment bill was submitted to Turkish parliament. Turkey's ruling party on Saturday submitted a bill to parliament that could expand the powers of President Erdogan, a move his opponents fear will lead to one-man rule. The constitutional change, which has been sought by Erdogan since he became president in 2014, would see Turkey switch to an executive presidency along the lines of the United States or France. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

Pressed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Saturday submitted to Parliament a 21-article package of constitutional reform proposals to switch presidential system of governance amid continuing political tension and a looming economic crisis.

“The reform package will bring changes to 70 articles of the current constitution,” said the AKP’s Abdulhamit Gül during a joint press conference with Mehmet Pursak, a deputy from the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which had bargained and agreed with the AKP on the package.

According to the package the president can retain links to his party and serve as the sole head of the executive branch. Abolishment of the prime ministerial post gives the president the authority to appoint vice presidents, ministers and high-level public officials.

The president will also be given the authority to issue decrees and to declare states of emergency and will have the authority to abolish Parliament with the condition that his term in office will also end. The party membership of the president will start in 2018, but the legal responsibilities will not become effective until 2019. The package proposes reducing the deputy candidacy age from 25 to 18 and increasing the number of deputies in Parliament from 550 to 600.

Changing the immunity of the president, currently limited to charges of treason, the new package proposes the prosecution of the president for all charges with the approval of Parliament. According to the package 301 of 600 deputies are required to file a charge against the president, while 360 deputies are needed to establish an investigation commission, and 400 deputies are necessary to refer him to the Supreme State Council.

According to the package half of Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) members will be chosen by the president, and the rest will be named by Parliament.

The number of Constitutional Court members will be decreased from 17 to 15 by removing two members from the Military Supreme Court of Appeals.

Military courts will be annulled and the commander of the Gendarmerie Forces will be removed from National Security Council (MGK) membership.

The AKP lacks a qualitative majority for directly amending the constitution but has the opportunity to take it to referendum if 330 lawmakers vote “yes” on it. The AKP needs an additional 14 votes to reach 330. The MHP has 40 seats in Parliament.

The amendment package must be taken to a referendum within 60 days following the vote in Parliament.

If the proposals are approved by Parliament or in a referendum, the new system will become effective after the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2019. Imposing a two-term limit on serving as president, the package gives Erdoğan the opportunity to rule the country until 2029.

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