Turkey’s Parliament debates greater powers for Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkey’s Parliament debates greater powers for Recep Tayyip Erdogan

ANKARA: Turkey’s Parliament has kicked off debate on proposed constitutional amendments that would hand Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s largely ceremonial presidency sweeping executive powers, and the possibility of serving two more five-year terms.nnErdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for 14 years, has long pushed imbuing the presidency with greater political powers, arguing that strong leadership would help Turkey grow.nnThe main opposition party fears that if approved, the reforms would concentrate too much power in Erdogan’s hands, turn the country into a de facto dictatorship and move Turkey away from democracy and its anchor in the West.nn”They are trying to turn the democratic parliamentary regime into a totalitarian regime,” main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said.nnDebate on the set of amendments is expected to last two weeks. The reforms must clear two rounds of balloting in parliament, known as the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, gaining at least 330 of the 550 votes.nnIf approved by lawmakers, the government will submit the package to a voter referendum for final approval possibly in the spring.nnToday, police used pepper spray to disperse a group of legislators, lawyers and other protesters who tried to gather near an entrance to the parliament building to oppose the proposed constitutional changes.nnSome roads leading to parliament were blocked in an apparent bid to prevent demonstrations.nnThe ruling party, founded by Erdogan, is 14 votes short of the required 330, but has secured the backing of the country’s nationalist party.nnThe changes would make the president the head of the executive branch, allow him to appoint the government, propose budgets and to declare states of emergency. They would also allow Erdogan to serve another two terms, ending in 2029.nnOther proposed amendments would increase the number of seats in the 550-member Parliament to 600, reduce the minimum eligibility age for legislators from 25 to 18, and set parliamentary and presidential elections on the same day.nnThe debate comes at a difficult time for Turkey, which has been rocked by a wave of bombings, renewed conflict with Kurdish rebels in the southeast, a military offensive in Syria and a failed coup attempt.nnThe botched July 15 coup set the stage for a sweeping purge of state institutions that has alarmed rights groups and Western governments.nnThe government has argued a strong presidential system would reduce instability.nnSource: AP

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