What Turkey said 'Yes' to

Referendum endorses huge range of reforms to country's parliament, presidency, elections and legal system

What Turkey said 'Yes' to

By Satuk Bugra Kutlugun and Hale Turkes


Turkish people on Sunday voted 51.37 percent in favor of changes to the country’s constitution.

The reforms will -- among other changes -- usher in an executive presidency.

As of 11.30 p.m. local time (2030GMT), unofficial results showed Yes won with 51.37 percent -- 24,966,843 votes -- while No had 48.63 percent, or 23,636,067 votes.

Turnout across the country was 85.46 percent.

Sunday’s referendum asked voters to decide upon an 18-article reform package.

The constitutional changes have been discussed since Recep Tayyip Erdogan was voted in as president in August 2014. The reform bill was passed by parliament in January this year by 339 votes in favor -- nine more than needed to put the proposals to a referendum.

Sunday's reforms will hand wide-ranging executive powers to the president; the post of prime minister will be abolished. The president will also be allowed to retain ties to a political party.

Other changes will see the minimum age for parliamentary candidates reduced to 18 and the number of lawmakers in parliament rise to 600.

Simultaneous parliamentary and presidential elections for a five-year term are going to be held in November 2019.

Turkey consistently enjoys high turnout rates in elections. According to a Pew Research report in 2016, it ranked second with a turnout of 85 percent among the 35 members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), behind Belgium with 89 percent.

- Amendments

There are 18 articles in the reform package. The amendment to Article 9 of the Constitution will change the existing text which reads: "Judicial power shall be exercised by independent courts on behalf of the Turkish Nation" – to read "independent and impartial courts".

A change to Article 75 will increase the number of lawmakers in parliament to 600.

A reworked Article 76 will lower the minimum age a Turkish citizen can be elected to parliament from 25 to 18. It will also lift the requirement of having completed compulsory military service.

The new Article 77 will see parliamentary elections held every five years, instead of four. Parliamentary and presidential elections -- each for five-year terms -- will be held on the same day, with the presidential election going to a run-off unless a candidate wins a simple majority in the first round.

Article 87 of the Constitution outlines the duties and powers of parliament.

These will be to "to enact, amend, and repeal laws; to scrutinize the Council of Ministers and the ministers; to authorize the Council of Ministers; to issue decrees having the force of law on certain matters; to debate and adopt the budget bills and final accounts bills; to decide to issue currency and declare war; to approve the ratification of international treaties, to decide with the majority of three-fifths of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey to proclaim amnesty and pardon; and to exercise the powers and carry out the duties envisaged in the other articles of the Constitution".

The package ends parliament's authority to inspect Turkey’s cabinet and its ministers. It also lifts the practice of the veto of confidence and censure. Votes of confidence will be given by the people in elections.

Changes to Article 89 state that to overcome a presidential veto, parliament will need to approve the same bill with an absolute majority.

Article 98 regulates parliament's supervisory power. Supervision by parliament will be implemented through parliamentary inquiry, general debate and written inquiry. Parliamentary inquiries into the president or cabinet members will be broadened. It will also be obligatory to answer any written inquiry within 15 days.

Article 101 deals with the terms of a presidential candidacy. The amendments expand and facilitate nomination conditions for all parties. The president will 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. Citizens will be able to nominate a presidential candidate provided that s/he gets at least 100,000 signatures.

Article 104, which regulates the president's duties and powers, will be changed to allow "the head of the state" executive power to appoint and dismiss ministers. Dual leadership is abolished, with the powers of president and prime minister integrated. The president is given the right to issue a presidential decree.

The next amendment concerns Article 105 which is about presidential accountability and non-accountability. The package stipulates that the president is no longer non-accountable, and might be investigated and referred to the Supreme Court if necessary. A president who undergoes an investigation cannot decide to hold an early election. If convicted by the Supreme Court, the president's term will be terminated.

Changes to Article 106 stipulate that the government is formed by the president, who can appoint one or more vice presidents, and who may be investigated and put on trial if necessary.

Article 116 is about the renewal of parliamentary elections. Both the president and three-fifths of the parliament can decide to renew elections.

Article 119 regulates the declaration of state of emergency. The package requires that such a declaration by the president will now be subject to parliamentary approval. The parliament will be given the authority to extend, curtail or lift a state of emergency. Every presidential decree issued during this time will also need the approval of parliament.

Article 142, which concerns formation of courts, is also subject to change. Under the package, military courts are completely abolished except for disciplinary issues.

Article 159 concerns the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors. The package removes the word "High" from the name of the body. Its membership will go down to 13 from 22, while the chambers will be reduced to two from three.

The changes to Article 161 will grant the power of drafting and submitting the budget to the president. The president's power of proposing legislation will be limited to the budget law, which will be debated and finalized in parliament.

Other changes will grant the power of introducing bills to MPs only. The armed forces will be included into the jurisdiction of the State Supervisory Council, while presidential decrees will be under the supervision of constitutional jurisdiction. Martial law will also be abolished.

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