Turkish constitutional committee approves amendments increasing number and reducing minimum age of deputies
The Parliamentary Constitutional Committee on Tuesday adopted the first three of the 21 articles of the constitutional amendment package that will allow Turkey to switch to a presidential system. The committee gathered under the presidency of the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) Istanbul Deputy Mustafa Şentop, on Monday and adopted the first article after a 12-hour discussion. The second and third articles were adopted yesterday during ongoing discussions that lasted a total of 15 hours. According to the adopted articles of the proposed package, the "jurisdiction" chapter of the constitution will be amended.
The clause stating that "independent" courts may exercise judicial power on behalf of the Turkish people will be changed to "independent and impartial" courts. Also, the third article in the amendment, which will enable Turkish citizens aged over 18 to sit in Parliament as deputies, was approved yesterday in the commission.
Article 75 of the current constitution regarding the "establishment of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey" will also be amended by increasing the number of deputies from 550 to 600.
The committee is expected to gather again at 2 p.m. local time on Tuesday to discuss the third proposed article of the constitutional amendment package.
Parliament is expected to begin discussing the proposed articles in early January, after the constitutional committee finishes their work on the 21-article amendment package. According to current practices, the constitutional amendment must pass through a second stage in the General Assembly, in which lawmakers will vote on each article and then vote for the package as a whole. Each of these voting stages requires a minimum of 330 parliamentary votes, in the second stage.
Currently, the AK Party holds 316 seats in Parliament and needs the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) — which has 39 seats — to support the proposals and take the constitutional amendments to a referendum within 60 days. The referendum is expected to take place next spring.
PM Yıldırım, MHP Chairman met to discuss new constitution
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli met late Monday to discuss a new draft constitution, a prime ministry source said. According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media, the two leaders came together at Çankaya Palace in Ankara. The source said that Yıldırım and Bahçeli exchanged views on the fight against terrorism during the meeting as well.
Meanwhile, other sources said yesterday that Yıldırım and MHP Chairman Bahçeli agreed to make a change in the amendment regarding the idea of substitute deputies. In addition, the clause that adds a condition for those running for president "being a Turkish citizen from birth" will be excluded.
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş commented on the issue as well. Speaking at a press conference after the last Cabinet meeting of 2016, Kurtulmuş said that talks between the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the MHP run smoothly and transparently. "The MHP will continue to support this amendment package," he said.
Kurtulmuş said that the proposal for a new constitution was requested by the people. "If the people say 'yes' as well, then nobody will be powerful enough to block this," he said.
The government has long sought to replace the current parliamentary system with a presidential one, saying there are flaws in the setup which hold back Turkey's development.
However, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) does not have enough lawmakers alone to enact the proposal. The draft constitution needs at least 330 votes in a secret parliamentary ballot to pave the way for a referendum. The AK Party has 316 seats while the MHP has 40; both parties back the bill. The largest opposition group, the Republican People's Party (CHP), remains opposed to the changes.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan emphasized that he will push for a referendum even if the draft is approved by a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
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.