Parliament adopts 18 articles of constitutional amendment package

DAILY SABAH WITH AA
ISTANBUL
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The Turkish parliament has adopted Article 17 and 18, the last two articles of the constitutional reform package on Sunday completing the first round of voting, after a brawl amongst deputies broke out between deputies of opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the ruling Justice and Development (AK Party) Party during the voting of Article 5 on January 11.

A total of 481 of 550 deputies participated the secret ballot session on the Article 18 on Sunday night at Parliament's General Assembly.

The changes were approved by a total of 344 votes. The motion was rejected by 131 MPs, two voted blank, three were invalid and one abstained.

According to the Article 18, the provision that president has to break off ties with his or her party, will be changed when the new motion goes into effect.

Earlier on Sunday, Turkish lawmakers adopted Article 17 of the new constitutional reform package which regulates parliamentary and presidential elections.

The new government system's implementations have been accepted in Article 16 of the proposal.

Separately in Article 15, expenditures of public entities will be made in accordance with the annual budget.

The country's president will be required to submit a budget proposal to parliament at least 75 days before the fiscal year. The proposal will be discussed by parliament's Budget Commission.

The deputies passed the Article 14 of new constitution with 341 votes in favor, paving the way to change the structure of top judicial board HSYK.

The new body approved in Article 14 will be renamed the Judges and Prosecutors' Council, retain its independence, own budget, and the Minister of Justice will be president of the Council.

In secret ballots Saturday, 343 out of 550 MPs of parliament voted in favor article 13 which stipulates that military courts cannot be established except for disciplinary ones.

Meanwhile 133 MPs rejected the motion, three voted blank, along with two invalid votes and one abstaining vote.

Article 12 was adopted with 344 votes in favor, and 133 rejections. The article adopted specifies the circumstances when the president will be able to declare the state of emergency.

Early on Saturday, MPs also passed Article 11 which changes the current 11th article of the constitution that envisages holding presidential and parliamentary elections at the same time. According to the motion, the term-in-office of the president and MPs will be five years and the president can be re-elected for a second mandate if parliament approves. Parliamentary decision must be met by three-fifth majority.

According to Article 10 which was adopted Friday, the president will be able to appoint more than one vice president.

The measure adopted by 343 MPs says that in case of the removal of the President from office for any reason, a presidential election will be held within 45 days. The vice president will serve as an acting president until the new president is elected and will be granted with the same authorities as the elected president.

According to Article 9, the Turkish Grand National Assembly may propose by absolute majority an investigation into the alleged crime of the President. The article was endorsed late Friday by 343 MPs, while 137 rejected it.

The lawmakers would discuss this proposal within one month and may decide to launch an inquiry by 330 MPs --three-fifths of the assembly-- in a secret ballot.

An inquiry would be conducted by a commission of 15 MPs, consisting of members of the political parties in the assembly.

The commission would submit a report stating the outcome of the inquiry to the presidency of the assembly within two months. If the inquiry can not be completed within this period, a new and definite period of one month is given to the commission, the Article 9 read.

An inquiry report shall be distributed to the lawmakers within ten days from the date on which it is given to the President, and shall be discussed in the general assembly within ten days following its distribution, the accepted article says.

Turkish Parliament may take the decision of sending the President to the Supreme Court by 367 MPs --two-thirds of the assembly-- in a secret ballot.

The trial at the Supreme Court shall be completed within three months. If it can not be completed within this period, a three-month additional period shall be granted for one time, the article states.

The duty of the President would end if he or she is condemned for a crime that prevents him or her from being elected.

The Article 9 also adds that the President can not take an election decision during his or her inquiry process.

Article 8 of the package says as "the head of the state", the president will have executive power that will enable him to appoint and dismiss ministers.

A total of 481 lawmakers took part in the second ballot in the early morning hours of Friday. It passed 340-135 with five blank ballots and one invalid vote.

The fifth article, which deals with regulations for job definition and responsibilities of the parliament, is one of the most discussed items, which seeks to end the parliament's authorization to inspect ministers and the Cabinet.

The article was endorsed by 343 of the assembly's 550 lawmakers. Seven others rejected it, three ballots were left blank and one vote was deemed invalid.

On Thursday, the sixth article which deals with the Parliament's information gathering and inspection processes was also approved by 343 of the assembly's 550 deputies. 137 deputies rejected the article. Early Friday, the seventh article that allows the president to maintain ties with a political party was also approved, this time with 340 votes in favor.

On Friday, the ninth article dealing with president's criminal liabilities was also approved in the assembly by 343 votes in favor.

During the secret voting session of the fifth article, the process was interrupted by physical fights between lawmakers of CHP and AK Party after CHP members occupied the parliament rostrum.


The rostrum was broken during the brawl

AK Party Ankara deputy Fatih Şahin's nose was reportedly broken by CHP deputies, while Trabzon deputy Muhammed Balta's leg was bitten by an unknown CHP deputy.


AK Party Deputy Muhammed Balta from Trabzon province after he was bitten by a CHP deputy (Twitter Photo)

Thursday marks the fourth day since the debate on the constitutional reforms began in parliament.

On Tuesday and late Wednesday, the first four articles of the Constitution were adopted.

Those items concerned the exercise of judicial power, an increase in parliament seats, lowering of the age of MP candidacy and regulations on parliamentary and presidential elections, respectively.

Thirteen more amendments proposed by the AK Party will be voted in parliament.

The parliamentary process will likely be followed by a referendum in which the option of replacing Turkey's parliamentary system with a presidential model will be put to the electorate.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his supporters have argued that Turkey needs a strong presidency to avoid weak governance and allow the country to successfully tackle a number of challenges, including terror attacks from Daesh, the PKK and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).

To reach a referendum, the proposed changes must first be passed by 330 deputies. If it gets the support of 367 lawmakers it could pass into law without a referendum, although the AK Party said it would hold a popular vote regardless.

A simple majority must agree to the changes in a referendum.

The AK Party has 316 seats and Erdoğan hopes the support of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which has 39 seats and last month agreed to back the package, will be enough to secure a referendum.

Other parties - the Republican People's Party (CHP), with 133 seats, and the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), with 59 deputies - remain opposed to a presidential system. Two independent deputies are split over support for the amendments.

Among the changes are plans for an elected president to form a government independently of parliament and for the role of prime minister - typically the person leading the largest parliamentary party - to be abandoned.

Parliamentary and presidential elections would be held on the same day every five years, instead of the current four for the parliamentary vote.

The president would be limited to two terms in office but would not be required to leave his or her political party.

When elected to the presidency in August 2014, Erdoğan had to resign as AK Party leader due to the supposedly apolitical nature of the post.

In the judiciary, the Constitutional Court, Turkey's highest court for constitutional affairs, would be reduced to 15 members from it's current 17, while the justice minister would be added to the Supreme Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors, which deals with judicial and prosecution appointments.

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