Turkey’s referendum on a powerful presidency

Turkey will hold a referendum on April 16 on changing the constitution to replace its parliamentary system with the executive presidency long sought by incumbent Tayyip Erdogan.

Following are some details about the 18 amendments proposed in the referendum that could change around 70 laws and see Erdogan with enhanced powers and in office until 2029.

If the amendments are passed:

* The office of the prime minister will be abolished.

The president will appoint the cabinet and an undefined number of vice-presidents.

* The president will be able to issue decrees to form and regulate ministries and appoint and remove senior civil servants, all without parliamentary approval.

* Decrees will not be allowed on issues concerning human rights or basic freedoms, or to override existing laws.

Courts will decide if a decree interferes with the law.

Critics say the vague wording of the legal code — and the judicial system’s reputation for partiality — mean such rulings may lack independence.

* The president will be able to hold membership in a political party, including the leadership of a party.

Currently the presidency is symbolic and above party politics.

* The president will be able to declare a state of emergency and no longer require the cabinet’s approval to do so.

* The president will be able to draft the budget, currently drawn up by parliament.

* The State Supervisory Board (DDK), a presidential institution that oversees the activities of public and private bodies, will be able to open administrative investigations, giving the president direct power over a wide range of groups, including the armed forces.

* The number of members of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) will be cut to 13 from 22. The president will appoint four members and parliament seven.

The justice minister and his undersecretary will automatically be members.

* If the president were accused or suspected of a crime, parliament will be able to request an investigation with a simple majority, and send the investigation to the Constitutional Court with a vote of two-thirds.

* The Constitutional Court will have the authority to try the president.

Twelve of its members will be appointed by the president and three by the parliament.

* Parliament will be expanded to 600 seats from 550.

The minimum age to be elected will be lowered to 18 from 25.

* Parliamentary elections will take place every five years, instead of every four, and on the same day as presidential elections.

* The president will be able to dissolve parliament, although that would also trigger early presidential elections.

* The president will be able to serve a maximum of two five-year terms.

If the parliament decides on early elections during the president’s second term, the incumbent will be allowed to run again.


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