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Friday, 06 December 2019

What changes under Turkey's new constitution plan

AFP , Friday 10 Feb 2017
Erdogan
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses local administrators in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017 (Photo: AP)
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday approved a controversial new draft constitution which would expand his own powers, with a public vote on the changes planned in April.

The referendum is due to take place on April 16.

While critics say the move is part of a power grab by Erdogan for a one-man rule, supporters say it will simply put Turkey in line with France and the US and is needed for efficient government.

But what would change under the proposed 18-article draft constitution for the nation of 79 million?

Under the new constitution, the president would have strengthened executive powers to directly appoint top public officials including ministers.

The president would also be able to assign one or several vice presidents. The office and position of prime minister, currently held by Binali Yildirim, would be scrapped.

The current constitution, adopted in 1982 after a 1980 military coup, guarantees independence of the courts from an "organ, authority and office".

But the changes would allow the president to directly intervene in the judiciary, which Erdogan has accused of being influenced by supporters of his ally-turned-foe, the Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen who is blamed for the July 15 failed coup.

The president and the parliament would together be able to choose four members of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), a key judicial council that appoints and removes personnel in the judiciary. The parliament would choose seven members on its own.

Military courts, which have convicted officers and even sentenced former prime minister Adnan Menderes to death following a 1960 coup, would in the future not be allowed.

However the draft said that on issues clearly regulated by laws, the president could not introduce decrees.

Under the draft constitution, a state of emergency would be imposed in the event of an "uprising against the homeland" or "acts of violence which put the nation in... danger of being divided", the official news agency Anadolu said.

The president would decide whether or not impose a state of emergency and then present it to the parliament.

The parliament, when it deems it to be necessary, can shorten, lengthen or lift the state of emergency, the agency added.

Initially the emergency would last six months, 12 weeks longer than the current emergency can be introduced and then it can be extended by the parliament after a presidential request for four months each time.

Turkey's parliament on January 4 approved a government-backed motion to extend by another three months the state of emergency imposed in the wake of the July 15 failed coup against Erdogan.

The number of members of the Turkish parliament would rise from 550 to 600. The minimum age limit for MPs would also be lowered from 25 to 18.

Legislative elections would take place once every five years -- instead of four -- and on the same day as the presidential elections.

The parliament would still have power to enact, modify and remove legislation. It would retain supervisory powers to write enquiries with help from an investigative authority.

It would also be able to oversee the president's performance but the latter would have authority to issue a presidential decree on all matters related to his executive powers.

If the president were accused or suspected of a crime, then parliament could request an investigation.

The president will also have to be a Turkish citizen at least 40 years old, and can be a member of a political party. Currently the president must be impartial and without party favour.

The draft constitution states that the next presidential and parliamentary elections are to be held simultaneously on November 3, 2019.

The president would have a five-year term with a maximum of two mandates.

Erdogan was elected president in August 2014 after over a decade as prime minister, in the first ever direct elections for a Turkish head of state.

The changes could see him stay in power until 2029. The president has yet to make explicitly clear whether this is the case.

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