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Turkey’s Parliament Approves Constitutional Reform Package

  • VOA News

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Jan. 17, 2017.

The Turkish parliament has approved a constitutional reform package that would strengthen the powers of the presidency and could keep President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in office until 2029. A national referendum for final approval of the bill will be held in several months.

The lawmakers voted in favor of the bill early Saturday with 339 supporting and 142 opposing it. The legislation needed at least 330 votes in the 550-member parliament for the bill to be put to a public vote. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) enjoys a parliamentary majority.

The bill would expand the parameters for the president to declare a state of emergency, which Turkey has been under following the failed coup in July. Since the coup attempt, more than 100,000 civil servants have been dismissed for their alleged ties to Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric the government blames for the revolt.

Ruling AK Party and opposition lawmakers scuffle after the independent lawmaker Aylin Nazliaka (not pictured) handcuffed herself to the rostrum during a debate to protest against the proposed constitutional changes at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, Turkey.
Ruling AK Party and opposition lawmakers scuffle after the independent lawmaker Aylin Nazliaka (not pictured) handcuffed herself to the rostrum during a debate to protest against the proposed constitutional changes at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, Turkey.

Turkey has suffered a number of attacks by insurgents in the past year. Ruling party officials say the president needs to increase powers to counteract the growing security threats.

Critics say the new laws would give too much power to Erdogan and his increasing authoritarianism.

Metgin Feyzioglu told the French news agency the reform package is reminiscent of ancient Turkey.

“This new system is not unknown to us because we have been ruled for 600 years in this way. It has a name, which is sultanate.”

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