by WorldTribune Staff, January 16, 2017
Constitutional reforms that will significantly boost the powers of the presidency moved a step closer to approval in Turkish parliament on Jan. 15.
In a late-night session in Ankara, a majority of lawmakers voted in favor of the final article in the reform package presented by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AKP party, according to a report by The Associated Press.
Legislators have now approved all 18 articles in the reform package.
A second and final round of voting is needed to confirm the result. If the reform bill should secure at least 330 votes in the 550-seat assembly, it would then be put to a national referendum.
Legislators will convene again on Jan. 18 and are expected to conclude voting by Jan. 21.
Critics say the reform package will essentially turn Turkey into a dictatorship.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the opposition CHP party, said the vote signifies the beginning of the end of “the 140-year-old parliamentary tradition” in Turkey.
During his tenure, Erdogan has steered Turkey from being largely secular to increasingly Islamist.
The government under Erdogan has also increasingly cracked down on the press and on social media by shuttering Twitter and Facebook at several junctures.
Thousands of people have also been arrested for criticizing Erdogan. Most recently, the head of a cafeteria at the Turkish opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet was detained on charges of insulting Erdogan after he said he would refuse to serve him tea.
Turkey has also increased its crackdown on dissent since a failed coup in July. Staff at the Cumhuriyet are among tens of thousands of people who have been detained, suspended or sacked during that time.