AK Party, MHP present Turkey’s long-debated political system reform draft to Parliament

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 10.12.2016 00:00
Updated 10.12.2016 19:05
MHP deputy Parsak L and AK Party deputy Gül hold a press conference on constitutional reform draft in Turkey's Parliament. AA Photo
MHP deputy Parsak (L) and AK Party deputy Gül hold a press conference on constitutional reform draft in Turkey's Parliament. (AA Photo)

As the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) agreed on the draft for the long-sought constitutional reform, including a switch to presidential system, after increased traffic on Saturday, the draft was presented to the Parliament.

AK Party Secretary General Abdulhamit Gül and MHP deputy Mehmet Parsak revealed the details of the amendment package today in a joint press conference in Parliament in Ankara.

Gül said that the draft, including 21 articles, was signed by 316 AK Party deputies. The party holds 317 out of the 550 seats in the Parliament.

He added that seven articles previously agreed by AK Party, MHP and the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) in the parliamentary constitution commission were also added to the constitutional reform draft.

Parsak said that constitutional reform package does not challenge the basic principles of the national and unitary state, which are defined in first four articles of the constitution.

Here are the changes to agreed in the draft:

Presidential system

The main change in the reform, which was announced earlier, is the abolishment of prime ministerial post and the president becoming the only executive branch, who will be authorized to issue decrees. The draft also proposes that the president can remain a member of a political party.7

A vice-presidential post will also be established and ministers will be subordinate to the president.

The president will be able to abolish the parliament, effectively ending his own term.

Changes to the parliament

The package also changes the number of deputies in parliament from 550 to 600 and the age requirement for deputy selection will be reduced from 25 to 18 years of age. Party candidates who are not elected the parliament in parliamentary elections will serve as substitute deputies in a case deputy's seat from their respective electoral region becomes vacant.

Prosecution of the president

On Saturday, the main article that the two parties agreed on the draft was referring the president to the Constitutional Court, which serves as the Supreme Court, in a three-layered method. This issue was among the most debated as Turkey's current political system lacks effective accountability for the executive branch.

If an absolute majority of the deputies agree (301 out of 600 deputies), a charge against the president can be brought before the parliament. The president can be referred to a parliamentary investigative commission if 360 out of 600 deputies agree. Following the inquiry made by the commission, a two-thirds majority (400 out of 600 deputies) will be sought to refer the president to the Supreme Court.

Current constitution provides immunity to the president only for treachery charges, whereas the draft foresees prosecution for all charges accepted by the parliament.

Changes to the legal system

The structure of Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) will be changed, half of its members will be chosen by the President and the rest will be chosen by the Parliament. A sixty percent majority (360 out of 600 deputies) will be sought first two rounds of HSYK member election in Parliament. If the election remains to the last round, members will be determined through a draw.

The number of members of the Constitutional Court will decreased from 15 to 17, two members from the Military Supreme Court of Appeals will be removed.

Military courts will completely be removed except for disciplinary charges.

Administrative changes

Commander of the Gendarmarie Forces, who was previously subordinated to the interior minister, will be removed from the membership of National Security Council (MGK).

If the changes in the draft were approved in the parliament and in a referendum as the two parties have pledged earlier, local elections will be held in March 2019 and presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in November 2019.

Currently, 367 votes are required to make constitutional amendments and 330 votes are required to bring a constitutional amendment proposal to a referendum.

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