Turkey parliament set to debate Erdogan powers

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s parliament will start this week  a fortnight of debates on a new constitution aimed at expanding the powers of the presidency under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, state media said on Saturday. The new constitution, which will replace the basic law drawn up in the wake of Turkey’s 1980 military coup, seeks to set up for the first time a formal presidential system for ruling the country. Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) say the system would bring Turkey into line with countries such as France and the United States and is needed for efficient government. The debates on the 18-article new constitution will begin in parliament on Monday after the draft was agreed by a parliamentary commission ahead of the New Year, the official Anadolu news agency said.
The two readings are expected to last a total of 13-15 days, it added.
The AKP needs more than 330 votes — a three fifths majority — for the bill to then be submitted to a referendum for public approval.
However, November 2015 polls left the AKP short of a super majority in parliament and is relying on support of the opposition right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the fourth largest party. Once voted by parliament, a referendum should take place within 60 days, indicating a date in late March or early April. Under the new constitution, the president would not have to sever links with a political party, as is the case now even though Erdogan co-founded the AKP. It is also expected to lead to the creation of posts of vice presidents and the abolition of the office of prime minister.
The number of MPs would be increased to 600 from 550 and the age of eligibility to become a lawmaker reduced to 18 from 25.
The draft law says the president would be elected for a five-year term and serve for a maximum of two mandates.
If Erdogan’s existing time as president is not counted in this, it means that in theory he could stay in office until 2029, with the next elections due in 2019.
Meanwhile, Turkey on Saturday ordered the dismissal of almost 8,400 civil servants and the closure of over 80 associations, including sports clubs, in the latest round of purges after the July failed coup. More than 100,000 people have already been suspended or sacked in a crackdown on those alleged to have links to coup-plotters in a relentless purge that shows no sign of slowing.
According to three new decrees published within the state of emergency imposed after the coup, 8,390 more civil servants are to lose their jobs from 63 different state institutions.
They include 2,687 police officers, 1,699 civil servants from the justice ministry, 838 health officials and hundreds of employees from other ministries.
Another 631 academics and eight members of the Council of State were also dismissed.
The dismissals are authorised by the cabinet and require no parliamentary approval under the state of emergency, which has twice been extended and is now due to last until April 19.
The three decrees published in the Official Gazette also ordered the closure of 83 associations accused of “activities affecting the security of the state”.
These include eight sports clubs, mainly from the Kurdish-dominated southeast of the country.
A decree also stipulates that Turkish citizens abroad who do not respond to a summons to testify as part the coup investigation may lose their citizenship.
Meanwhile, police have also authorised to access the identity of Internet subscribers to investigate crimes committed online.
Critics have claimed that the crackdown goes well beyond the suspected coup plotters and targets anyone who has dared show opposition to Erdogan.
Ankara blames the coup plot on US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen and says an unrelenting campaign is needed to root out his influence from public life. Gulen denies the allegations.
The failed putsch that left 248 people dead, not including the plotters, and thousands more wounded. Turkey insists that all those investigated will have a fair hearing and, under the latest decrees 276 people, previously dismissed were allowed to return to work following a probe. — Agencies