TURKISH MPS TO DISCUSS CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT IN A DECISIVE ROUND ON JAN 18

Turkish lawmakers will continue to debate the country’s most-discussed constitutional amendment bill in a second and decisive round on 18th January.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (Ak Party) Parliamentary Group Deputy Chairman Bulent Turan said Monday that the lawmakers will meet at the general assembly on Wednesday to discuss the articles of the constitutional amendment in the second round of the parliamentary discussions.

The number of 18 articles in the amendment, which Ak Party’s deputies submitted to the parliament on Dec. 30, has been endorsed by two-thirds of the assembly by the support of opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) lawmakers in the non-binding round last week.

In the first round, the opposition parties in the assembly, which against the change on the constitution –the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)–, have presented some proposals on the articles however none of them have been accepted.

The discussions in the first round had begun on Jan. 9, ended on Sunday. In the second round, any article that does not get support of two-thirds of the assembly will be out of the package.

Releasing a statement, MHP Parliamentary Group Deputy Chairman Erkan Akcay said Monday that his party will stand firmly behind the amendment in the decisive round, and praised the  proposed bill as he claimed that the balance between authority and responsibility will be ensured.

“One of the most important innovations of the constitutional amendment bill is the balance of authority and responsibility,” he said, by adding that this balance would keep the government from arbitrary actions.

“Our [current] constitution has not achieved this balance so far,” he said.

MHP deputy also claimed that “the long-standing debate over the government system will end” with the approval of the constitutional change by a referendum.

Meanwhile, speaking to the journalists in the Parliament, CHP Parliamentary Group Deputy Chairman Ozgur Ozel warned the ruling party’s lawmakers to act in accordance with the rules of secret ballot.

Ozel urged that they “will identify all the violations by using all the facilities” of technology and bring them to the Constitutional Court to revoke the amendment.

In the first round, CHP lawmakers argued that AK Party deputies broke the rules of the secret ballot by unvoring their votes to others and the public.

Ozel also criticized that Turkey’s state television, TRT did not air the parliamentary discussions after 1900pm local time last week despite the valid agreement between the channel and the presidency of the Parliament.

However, it has been broadcasted online on the website of the parliament.

AK Party deputy Turan is very confident that all articles of the constitutional amendment will be passed smoothly.

“After the end of the second round, the proposal will be sent to the President for a referendum [decision],” he said.

The AK Party aims to approve six articles per day in the second round of the voting and finish it by Jan. 21.

The process will likely be followed by a referendum in which the option of replacing Turkey’s parliamentary system with a presidential model will be put to the electorate.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his supporters have argued that Turkey needs a strong presidency to avoid weak governance and allow the country to successfully tackle a number of challenges, including terror attacks from Daesh, the PKK and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO). Opponents claim it will weaken democratic checks and lead to increased authoritarianism.

To reach a referendum, the proposed changes must first be passed by 330 of 550 deputies.

A simple majority must agree to the changes in a referendum.

The AK Party has 316 seats and Erdogan hopes the support of the opposition MHP, which has 39 seats and last month agreed to back the package, will be enough to secure a referendum.

Other parties — CHP, with 133 seats, and HDP, with 59 deputies — remain opposed to a presidential system. Two independent deputies are split over support for the amendments.

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