Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said yesterday that the government would “very soon” submit proposals to parliament for constitutional changes bolstering the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The government is seeking a three-fifths majority for the proposals in parliament, which would allow the calling of a referendum to let the people have the final say.
The chances of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) cobbling together such a majority increased yesterday when the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) indicated he could back the changes.
“The necessary constitutional changes offered by the AKP will be presented to parliament very soon,” Yildirim told a meeting of his party in parliament.
He said that the changes were needed to “eliminate confusion from the system”.
Erdogan, prime minister since 2003, was in August 2014 elected president, the first time the Turkish head of state was chosen by universal suffrage.
He has since transformed what in recent years had become a more ceremonial post, concentrating powers in what opponents have said is a violation of the existing constitutions.
AKP officials say the constitutional changes are needed to legalise what has become a de facto situation: the president becoming the country’s number one executive figure.
Erdogan has also ridiculed complaints that the changes will make him a dictator, saying that presidential systems exist in France and the United States and noting the existing constitution was drawn up after the 1980 military coup.
The AKP needs a majority of 330 out of 550 seats in the parliament to call the referendum.
It currently has 317 seats (316 excluding speaker Ismail Kahraman).
Yesterday MHP leader Devlet Bahceli, whose party controls 40 seats in the parliament, gave his firmest indication yet he could back the referendum.
He said a “healthy” outcome could be achieved if the AKP submits a proposal to parliament that is “sensitive” to the concerns of the MHP.
The MHP is the fourth party in parliament by seats won.
But its support would be enough to allow the referendum to go ahead even if it opposed by the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
The political uncertainty has increased pressure on the Turkish lira after it initially weathered the storm in the wake of the coup.
Yesterday, the lira lost 0.3% against the US dollar and last lost over 4% in value since the start of the month.
A super majority of two-thirds – 367 seats – would approve the changes directly without a referendum.
But with polls looking positive, the government appears more than happy to go to a referendum and seek a show of popular support in the wake of the defeated July 15 coup.
“Since the parliamentary process of such a change will take time ... we think that the earliest possible month to hold referendum is March/April 2017,” said Ozgur Altug, economist at BGC partners in Istanbul in a note to clients.
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