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Voting under way in Parliament, 4 amended articles approved

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In a second round of votes the Turkish Parliament on Wednesday night passed the first four articles of a controversial 18-article package that amends the constitution to switch to an executive presidency from a parliamentary system of governance.

The legislature will vote on the entire package before a final vote on the complete text mandating the constitutional amendments. The third round of voting is considered critical for the changes to become effective.

Earlier on Wednesday, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu visited Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli to express concerns about the constitutional reform package.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), backed by the MHP, is pushing through legislation that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says will bring the strong leadership needed to prevent a return of the fragile coalition governments of the past.

The CHP and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) fear the reform will fuel authoritarianism.

The bill needs the support of at least 330 deputies in the 550-seat assembly to go to a referendum, expected in the spring. The AKP has 316 deputies eligible to vote and the MHP 39.

The reform will enable Erdoğan to appoint and dismiss government ministers, take back the leadership of the ruling party and govern until 2029.

The plans foresee presidential and general elections in 2019, with a maximum of two five-year terms.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement on Wednesday saying that by means of changes to the constitution proposed in the Turkish Parliament, President 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 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.

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