Lawmakers on Sunday adopted the last article of a constitutional reform package that allows a partisan president, unlike current Turkish Constitution.
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 second round of voting on the historic constitutional reform package is planned to take place on Jan. 18 after the first round completed Sunday. The ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party aims to approve 6 articles per day in the second round of the voting and finish it by Jan. 21.
The AK Party plans to have a referendum on constitutional changes on March 26 or at the latest on April 16.
Lawmakers have so far passed regulations that define and lay out parliament’s responsibilities -- one of the most discussed items -- and the regulation of criminal liabilities for the president and top officials, as well as structural reforms to the nation’s highest judicial body.
Constitutional reform and the change to a presidential system has been on the political agenda since Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former prime minister and Justice and Development (AK) Party leader, was elected president in
August 2014. This marked the first time a Turkish president had been directly chosen by popular vote.
On Dec. 30, a constitutional committee of deputies from the ruling AK Party and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) submitted a proposed bill to parliament for ratification. Turkey's largest opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), and the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) remain opposed to the proposed changes.
If it passes parliament by 330 of 550 deputies, it will be voted on in a national referendum. If it obtains the support of 367 lawmakers, it can pass into law without referendum although Erdogan has said he would push for a referendum even if the draft is approved by the two-third majority.
Proposed changes to the constitution require a simple majority (51 percent). The AK Party has 316 seats and Erdogan hopes the support of the MHP, which has 39 seats, will secure a referendum.
*Reporting by Coskun Ergul, Hatice Ozdemir and Kadir Karakus; Writing by Handan Kazanci,Burcu Arik
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