The Parliamentary Constitution Committee will commence today to review a constitutional amendment proposal that will allow Turkey to switch to a presidential system. The 21-article bill was submitted to Parliament on Dec.10 after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) reached an agreement on the draft for the long sought after constitutional reform. Parliamentary sources expect commission work to be completed within the month, while the General Assembly of Parliament is expected to begin discussing the proposed articles in early January.
According to the current practices, the constitutional amendment must pass through the second stage in the General Assembly. Deputies will discuss the entirety of the proposal initially before discussing and voting on each item.
In the second stage, lawmakers will vote on each article and then vote for the entire package. Each of these voting stages would require a minimum of 330 parliamentary votes. Currently, the AK Party holds 316 seats in Parliament and needs the MHP's support to ensure gaining the 39 MHP seats in order to take the constitutional amendment to a referendum upon completion of all voting stages in Parliament. Currently, the AK Party holds 316 seats in Parliament and needs the MHP's support, which has 39 seats, in order to take the constitutional amendments to a referendum within 60 days. The referendum would take place in the spring of next year.
If the proposal were to be accepted by the public in a referendum, Turkey would undergo a transitional period until 2019 when the new system would come into full effect. Moreover, during this period there will be no early elections and both the presidential and parliamentary elections will be held on the same day in 2019 and every five years thereafter. The bill would abolish the Prime Ministry and allow the elected president to maintain ties with his/her own party. Accordingly, the president will be elected by public vote and will be able to serve two five-year presidential terms.
The reform package will not only change the Constitution and governing system but it will also initiate new reforms that will be significantly important to the democratization process in the country. Currently, the Constitution states that no appeal shall be made to any judicial authority, including the Constitutional Court, which goes against the decisions and orders signed by the president. However, the proposed change will grant the parliament oversight of the president's actions, to a certain extent. The new bill allows Parliament to set up an investigative commission and even begin impeachment proceedings against the president. The parliamentary investigative commission would be set up by a simple majority vote and, upon receiving two-thirds' majority in parliamentary votes, will be able to implement legal impeachment proceedings to put the president on trial in the Supreme Court.