Turkish parliament approves constitutional reform, expanded powers for Erdogan

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In a night-long session, lawmakers voted in favor of a set of amendments presented by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which was founded by current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2003.

The reform bill is designed to widen Erdogan’s powers, who presently only occupies a largely ceremonial role.

The bill cleared the minimum parliamentary threshold necessary to put the measures to a national referendum for final approval, which could be held as early as in the spring.

A narrow win

The vote took place with 488 lawmakers out of the 550-seat assembly in attendance. A total of 339 parliamentarians voted in favor of the motion and 142 against it, while five cast empty ballots and two of the votes were ruled out as invalid. The measure required at least 330 votes to be approved and be put forward to a plebiscite.

Some of the lawmakers not attending the vote were absent on account of remaining in detention; as part of a wide-ranging purge on dissidents Turkey has detained opposition HDP politicians, whom it accuses of having ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim celebrated the result saying “we are now entrusting this to the people, its actual owners.

Now it’s the people’s word. It is the people’s decision.”

Critics, however, say the amendments will weaken checks and balances in Turkey’s democracy, leading to too much power being consolidated in the office of the president.

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