Turkish president approves constitutional change bill, referendum expected on April 16

11 February, 2017, 00:49 | Author: Essie Rivera

The High Election Board will announce the date for referendum, but the procedure requires April 16 for the popular vote.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said the referendum was likely to be held April 26.

President Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan approved on Friday constitutional amendments that will bring drastic changes to Turkey's political system, including a shift to an executive presidential system from the current parliamentary system. In 2014, he became president after having been prime minister since 2003.

Critics, however, fear the changes will significantly weaken Turkey's checks and balances, leading to increasingly authoritarian rule.

The move has been criticized by opposition parties as an attempt by the president to grab power, but Prime Minister Binali Yildirim argued the vote would ultimately put more power into the hands of the people who would pick the government and the president.

There has been a particular crackdown on members of the opposition, academics, journalists and rights activists since a failed military coup in July past year, after which the government declared a state of emergency.

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Erdogan says the reforms will provide stability and prevent a return to fragile parliamentary coalitions of the past.

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

The parliament passed the constitutional amendment on January 21 in two rounds of voting for 18 articles.

Citing a well-known saying of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the republic's founder, Erdogan said: "There is no defense line, but defense territory".

If the proposed changes to the presidential system go ahead they will mark a crowning achievement for Mr Erdogan, whose AK party has already begun campaigning for a "yes" vote before the official campaigning period begins. Currently, the office of the presidency is a largely ceremonial position.

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