HRW says president aiming for one-man rule, calls on Parliament to reject system change

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Turkish lawmakers cast their votes during a debate for a proposal for change in the constitution on January 10, 2017 at the Turkish parliament in Ankara. Turkey's parliament on January 9, 2017 began debating a controversial new draft constitution aimed at expanding the powers of the presidency under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement on Wednesday saying that by means of changes to the constitution proposed in the Turkish Parliament, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is making a bid for one-man rule and called on the legislature to reject the constitutional amendments that are currently in the process of being voted.

The HRW statement analyzed the 18-article constitutional amendment package, saying it would erode checks and balances and pose a huge threat to human rights and the rule of law while concentrating unchecked powers in the hands of the president.

Directing attention to a state of emergency that has been in effect in Turkey since a failed coup attempt on July 15, HRW said the government is rushing the bill while that emergency rule is in effect and during a crackdown against independent media that disables any public debate.

HRW also warned against switching to an executive presidency as suggested by Erdoğan and his party, stating that such a change would be the most significant change to Turkey’s political institutions since the introduction of the multiparty system in 1950.

Listing some of the huge powers that will be vested in the president, HRW said such a system change would give the president the power to appoint ministers, legislate by decree, dissolve and reconstitute parliament and control judicial appointments. In addition, the proposed changes, if approved, would abolish the post of prime minister and weaken parliamentary oversight of the executive, including an end to no confidence motions and not allowing members of Parliament to question the president, HRW pointed out in the statement, with a high level of concern over Turkey’s democratic future.

HRW also brought to mind the grave situation in terms of media freedoms in the country, saying:

“Independent media has been all but silenced, with over 160 media outlets and publishing houses closed down since July 2016, and over 140 journalists and media workers currently jailed pending trial. Over 100,000 civil servants have been summarily dismissed or suspended without due process, and over 40,000 people have been jailed pending trial, facing charges of involvement in the coup plot and for association either with the Fethullah Gülen movement, branded a terrorist organization, or Kurdish political activism deemed by the government to be connected to the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)”

The full statement calling the deputies in the Turkish Parliament to reject the major change in system can be found on the HRW website.

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