New Turkey constitution bill submitted to Erdogan

2 min

Ankara (AFP)

A bill to expand Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers has been submitted to the head of state for his approval ahead of a referendum possibly in April, the prime minister said Wednesday.

Erdogan's signature would be the final executive step in the adoption of the controversial bill ahead of the referendum, a date for which Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said would be announced this week.

Parliament approved on Saturday a new 18-article constitution, which would create an executive presidency for the first time in Turkey, in the final of two readings.

Brawls erupted in parliament during debates over the changes to the constitution, which critics fear will lead to one-man rule.

Yildirim told provincial ruling party chiefs in a televised speech in Ankara that Erdogan would sign the bill and the approval would be published in the Official Gazette.

There would be a 60-day period before the referendum. Yildirim did not say when the bill would be signed by Erdogan, who is currently in Africa.

Yildirim said the date for the plebiscite was expected to be announced this week by the Supreme Election Council (YSK).

"I think it will be in the first half of April, a suitable date would be up until the 20th (of April)".

The changes would give the head of state the power to appoint and dismiss ministers. There would be no longer a prime minister but instead one or more vice presidents.

Turkish officials have dismissed concerns over the legislation, saying the changes are needed to bring in effective government in a system similar to the United States or France.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has only 317 seats in the 550-seat parliament and sought the support of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to pass the bill in two readings earlier this month.

But Yildirim insisted there would be no "joint campaign" with the MHP to get a "Yes" vote for the changes.

He defended the bill, saying MPs' powers would be "strengthened" and that they would still have the right to bring draft laws to parliament.

While Yildirim was speaking the lira plunged to 3.82 against the US dollar, a loss of over one percent on the day, amid fears of continued political instability.