Turkish Parliament Approves Change to Presidential System

The Turkish parliament has approved a package of contentious constitutional reforms that will see more power placed in the hands of the president, completing a second round of voting on the 18 articles. The vote, which was completed overnight, paves the way for a referendum on the changes to the constitution expected to be held in April.

A total of 339 members of parliament voted in favor of the amendments. This just passed the minimum 330 votes needed out of the 550-seat parliament.

The constitutional reforms will found a presidential system in place of the current parliamentary one. The changes are fiercely opposed by the two main opposition parties, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), who fear increasing authoritarianism in the country.

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, who also is the head of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, said shortly after the vote that the “people will have the final say,” referring to the upcoming referendum which is expected to take place in April.

“We have done our job. Now we convey the issue to its real owner, our people,” Anadolu quoted Yildirim as saying. “People’s vote will be the most accurate one.”

The leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahceli, whose party backed the reforms, said “The Turkish nation will do its own evaluation and hopefully it will add to what have been achieved so far.”

Turkey’s Justice Minister, Bekir Bozdağ, hailed the vote on Twitter, writing, “Today, with the Presidential system adopted in the Turkish Grand National Assembly, the foundations for great Turkey have been laid.”

Leader of the CHP, Kilicdaroğlu, called on the people to “spoil the game that was played in the parliament.”

HDP had boycotted the vote in protest of the arrests of a number of its lawmakers, including the co-chairs of the party Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag.