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Opposition bloc announces constitutional amendment proposal to re-establish parliamentary system

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A bloc of six Turkish opposition parties has announced a proposal for a constitutional amendment that would bring back the parliamentary system of governance to the country, local media reported on Monday.

Through a referendum in April 2017, Turkey switched from a parliamentary system of governance to an executive presidential system that granted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) sweeping powers and was criticized for removing constitutional checks and balances, thus leading to a further weakening of Turkish democracy. Critics call the system “one-man rule.”

The “Table of Six,” which refers to the leaders of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the İYİ (Good) Party, the Felicity Party (SP), the Future Party (GP), the Democrat Party (DP) and the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), signed a declaration in February confirming their resolve to introduce a “strengthened parliamentary system” should they unseat President Erdoğan in the 2023 elections.

The opposition parties on Monday announced their proposal for the constitutional changes to switch back to the parliamentary system with the slogan “Now is the time for democracy” during a meeting that saw the participation of all six party leaders.

According to the Turkish media reports, the proposal, which consists of 84 articles, puts emphasis on the principle of the separation of powers and aims to give the constitution a more liberal understanding.

The parliament will be strong, the judiciary independent and the executive power will be stable in the new system, the parties said, adding they were determined to build “a strong, liberal, democratic and fair system.”

According to the proposal, the president will be elected for a period of seven years and his ties to his party will be terminated as soon as he is elected. “Human dignity” will be considered the foundation of the constitutional order, and “freedom to criticize” will be guaranteed in a way that prevents arbitrary restrictions and in cases of doubt, the interpretation will be made in favor of freedom and not restriction.

The changes will also include constitutionally guaranteeing animal rights for the first time; making the closure of political parties and the lifting of parliamentary immunity more difficult; prohibiting those found guilty of violence against women from serving in parliament; making the decision to withdraw from international agreements subject to parliament’s approval; removing the Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) and the Higher Education Board (YÖK) and replacing them with newly established boards; and selecting members of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) from among journalists and academics.

The proposal also aims to lift emergency decree-laws that are subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny and through which the Turkish government summarily removed more than 130,000 public servants from their jobs under the pretext of an anti-coup fight in the aftermath of the abortive putsch on July 15, 2016.

The members of the committee that drafted the bill will visit media outlets, bar associations, nongovernmental organizations, professional organizations, trade unions and women’s and youth organizations in the coming days, local media reports said, adding that representatives from the six parties will also meet with civil society organizations in programs organized across Turkey.

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