Turkish MPs pass articles 6, 7 of Constitution change
Articles regulate parliament's supervisory power, terms of presidential candidacy
By Alper Atalay
Parliament on Thursday adopted the sixth and seventh articles of a new constitutional reform package ahead of a referendum likely to be held in April.
The second round of voting began Wednesday after almost three weeks of debates in parliament.
A first round of ballots on the reforms was completed as lawmakers passed 18 articles -- each with more than 340 approval votes.
Lawmakers are voting again on each article for a second time and on the entire package.
The Article 6 was adopted with 342 votes in favor and 138 against, along with three blank papers and two invalid votes. Sixty-five lawmakers were absent.
The article regulates the parliament's supervisory power. It removes the motion of no confidence on the government, and defines the supervisory instruments as ‘plenary session’, ‘parliamentary research’, ‘parliamentary investigation’, and ‘written inquiry’, the last of which can be addressed to all MPs and cabinet members, including vice presidents.
The Article 7, which deals with the terms of presidential candidacy, was adopted with 340 votes in favor while 136 rejected the motion; four papers were left blank, one MP abstained, three votes were invalid and 66 lawmakers were absent.
Any candidate for president must be at least 40 years old, hold a university degree and must have Turkish citizenship. The president serves serve a five-year term and can be re-elected once.
The measure also removes the provision that restricts the president’s ability to maintain ties with a political party.
Articles 1, 2, 3,4 and 5 were adopted previously.
On Article 1, 345 lawmakers voted in favor to pass the measure, while 140 rejected the motion; one paper was left blank and 64 lawmakers were absent.
It changes the ninth Article of the Constitution – "the judicial power shall be exercised by independent courts on behalf of the Turkish Nation" – to read "independent and impartial courts".
The second item of the package increases the number of lawmakers from 550 to 600 in accordance with a rising population.
A total of 480 lawmakers took part in the second ballot. It passed with 342-139; four blank ballots and 65 lawmakers were absent.
Article 3 lowers the age for candidacy for parliament from 25 to 18. It passed 342-137. Three papers were blank and three were invalid.
On Article 4, 342 lawmakers voted in favor while 138 rejected the motion; one paper was left blank, four were invalid and one MP abstained; 64 lawmakers were absent.
The article changes the term "National Assembly elections" to "National Assembly and Presidential elections".
Parliamentary and presidential elections -- each for five-year terms -- would be held on the same day.
The fifth article that outlines parliament's responsibilities and ends its authorization to question ministers and Cabinet members was adopted with 342-140; four blank votes while 64 lawmakers were absent.
Voting on the remaining 12 amendments will continue Thursday and Friday.
If the entire package passes parliament with at least 330 of 550 deputies, the new articles will be put to vote in a national referendum.
If the reforms obtain the support of 367 lawmakers, it can pass into law without a referendum although President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would push for a referendum even if the draft is approved by a two-thirds majority.
Proposed changes to the Constitution require a simple majority (51 percent) in the referendum.
The ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party has 316 seats and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) -- which has so far supported the constitutional change -- has 39 seats.
Approval votes from the two parties would be enough to secure a referendum.
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