ANKARA – Turkey’s parliament has approved three more items from a controversial constitutional amendment draft in late-night voting sessions on Jan. 12 and early Jan. 13, reducing many of the legislature’s own powers in favor of strengthening the president.
The lawmakers discussed items regarding the duties and authorities of the president, the prerequisites for being a presidential candidate and restrictions on parliament’s ability to exercise oversight, voting in favor of all three during the sessions.
Article 6 on the supervisory authority of parliament was approved by lawmakers by a score of 343 to 137.
The article will revise parliament’s duty and authority to obtain and control information. If the article ultimately becomes law, parliament will only be able to ask for information, hold general meetings to discuss a subject related to state actions and submit a written question for ministers to answer. According to the article, parliament will no longer be able to issue motions of no confidence.
Lawmakers also voted 340 to 136 to allow presidential candidates to retain links with political parties; until now, the president has taken an oath to be impartial.
According to Article 7, the president must be at least 40 years of age, have graduated from university, hold Turkish citizenship and possess the qualifications to be elected as a lawmaker.
The president will be elected by the public directly and will hold his/her ties with his/her political party.
The most controversial article in the constitutional amendment was Article 8, which defines the duties and authorities of the president. According to the motion, all executive power belonging to the prime minister and the cabinet will now be transferred to the president.
The article was approved with 340 votes in favor to 135 against.
With the amendment, the president will hold the title “head of state.”
The president will have the authority to issue laws and return laws to the parliament for review.
The president will also have the authority to appeal to the Constitutional Court on the grounds that the laws, parliamentary bylaws or provisions are contrary to the constitution.
The president will also appoint the president’s assistants, ministers and senior public officials and have the power to terminate their duties.
The president will further possess the authority to issue presidential decrees on issues related to executive power. The decisions must meet the needs of the executive, while basic rights and freedoms and political rights and freedoms will be excluded from the scope of the regulation.
The respective motions required at least 330 votes in favor to be accepted.
Fight between AKP MPs and opposition MPs dominated the sessions
Apart from voting sessions, the fight between Turkish MPs dominated the debates in the parliament.
Criticizing the amendment, CHPAntalya lawmaker Deniz Baykal said allowing the president to have ties to a political party would compromise the principle of the division of powers.
“This is a reduction of the state to a political party. It seems you want a party state,” Baykal said.
“This package builds the infrastructure to transfer the diktat regime of the Middle East to Turkey,” he added.
The AKP Istanbul lawmaker Burhan Kuzu objected to the criticism of the opposition.
“The main opposition lawmakers says that the principle of the division of power has been violated. The parliamentary regime does not have the division of power. Here we see a fight between the ruling party and the opposition,” he said.
“In the end, the cabinet is appointed from among the majority of parliament he added.