(MAMOSA Report) — The campaign for Turkey’s constitutional referendum in April was declared open by the Supreme Election Board on Thursday.
A new draft constitution that would significantly increase the powers of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to be put to the referendum scheduled for April 16. Turkey’s constitution was drawn up at the behest of the military after the coup of 1980.
According to BBC, it’s arguably the most controversial political change in a generation, becoming in effect a referendum on the country’s powerful President Erdogan.
From Thursday, political parties are officially allowed to campaign on the constitutional changes that could usher in the presidential system for Turkey and give more powers to the President.
The plan would turn Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential republic, more akin to the United States.
The referendum will ask the electorate to vote Yes or No to the changes proposed in an 18-article bill, reports Anadolu Agency.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will initiate the Yes campaign with a series of meetings on Friday.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) plans to start its No campaign with a media launch on Monday and meetings in major cities such as Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.
Turkish nationals overseas will be able to vote between March 27 and April 9 at polling stations in embassies and consulates as well as at Turkish ports and airports. These votes will be tallied in Turkey on referendum night.
Constitutional reform has been under discussion since then-prime minister Erdogan was voted president in August 2014.
The bill was passed by parliament in January, with 339 votes in favor — nine more than needed to put the proposals to a referendum.
The proposals would hand wide-ranging executive powers to the president and abolish the post of prime minister. The president would also be allowed to retain ties to a political party.
Other changes would see the minimum age for parliamentary candidates reduced to 18 and the number of deputies rise to 600. Simultaneous parliamentary and presidential elections for a five-year term would be held in November 2019 under the new constitution.
Among the numerous changes:
The role of prime minister would be scrapped. The new post of vice president, possibly two or three, would be created.
The president would become the head of the executive, as well as the head of state, and retain ties to a political party.
He or she would be given sweeping new powers to appoint ministers, prepare the budget, choose the majority of senior judges and enact certain laws by decree.
The president alone would be able to announce a state of emergency and dismiss parliament.
Parliament would lose its right to scrutinise ministers or propose an enquiry. However, it would be able to begin impeachment proceedings or investigate the president with a majority vote by MPs. Putting the president on trial would require a two-thirds majority.
The number of MPs would increase from 550 to 600.
Presidential and parliamentary elections would be held on the same day every five years. The president would be limited to two terms.
The current system is, they say, holding back Turkey’s progress. They even argue that the change could somehow end the extremist attacks that have killed more than 500 people in the past 18 months, according to BBC.