Turkey set to vote on more powers for president

ISTANBUL • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday rubber-stamped proposed constitutional changes that will boost his own powers, paving the way for a referendum on the legislation in April.

The government said the proposals to create an executive presidency will simplify the government structure, but opponents fear that they will lead to one-man rule in Turkey.

"People will have the final say," said Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus, announcing that the referendum will take place on April 16. His comments were carried by the Anadolu news agency.

Parliament in January approved a new 18-Article reform Bill to create an executive presidency in the Nato member state - along the lines of the system in France and the United States.

Brawls erupted between lawmakers during debates over the Bill, highlighting the divisive nature of the changes, the most far-reaching constitutional shift since the creation of modern Turkey in 1923.

Mr Erdogan's approval of the legislation comes six months after an attempted coup against him by a rogue military faction, in July last year.

A brief statement on the presidency website said the Bill - which would enable the president to issue decrees, declare emergency rule, appoint ministers and top state officials, and dissolve Parliament - had been sent to the prime minister's office to be published and submitted to a referendum.

A CONTROVERSIAL MOVE

Now we will take power from Parliament and give it to one man.

MR KEMAL KILICDAROGLU, head of the secular Republican People's Party, on the proposed legislation.

The post of prime minister, currently held by Erdogan loyalist Binali Yildirim, would be replaced with one or more vice-presidents.

The Bill also calls for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held at the same time, with the draft stating Nov 3, 2019, as the date of the next ballot.

The referendum campaign is due to formally kick off on Feb 25, with Mr Kurtulmus expressing hope it would reflect "the maturity of Turkish democracy".

The main opposition party has accused Mr Erdogan - seen as increasingly autocratic after 14 years in power as both prime minister and president - of trying to decapitate Parliament.

"Now we will take power from Parliament and give it to one man," said Mr Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the secular Republican People's Party, in a televised speech.

If the legislation is approved in the April referendum, it could pave the way for Mr Erdogan, who became president in August 2014 in the first ever direct elections for a Turkish head of state, to remain in office until 2029.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2017, with the headline 'Turkey set to vote on more powers for president'. Print Edition | Subscribe