Turkey passes controversial article of constitutional change
Lawmakers on Sunday adopted the last article of a constitutional reform package that allows a partisan president, unlike current Turkish Constitution.

A total of 481 of 550 deputies participated the secret ballot session on the Article 18 on Sunday night at Parliament’s General Assembly.

The changes were approved by a total of 344 votes. The motion was rejected by 131 MPs, two voted blank, three were invalid and one abstained.

According to the Article 18, the provision that president has to break off ties with his or her party, will be changed when the new motion goes into effect.

Earlier on Sunday, Turkish lawmakers adopted Article 17 of the new constitutional reform package which regulates parliamentary and presidential elections.

The second round of voting on the historic constitutional reform package is planned to take place on Jan. 18 after the first round completed Sunday. The ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party aims to approve 6 articles per day in the second round of the voting and finish it by Jan. 21.

The AK Party plans to have a referendum on constitutional changes on March 26 or at the latest on April 16.

Lawmakers have so far passed regulations that define and lay out parliament’s responsibilities -- one of the most discussed items -- and the regulation of criminal liabilities for the president and top officials, as well as structural reforms to the nation’s highest judicial body. 

Former diplomats urge Turkish gov’t against constitutional amendments

Sixty-two former Turkish diplomats have issued a statement urging the government that Turkey’s qualifications as democratic, secular state based on the rule of law will be lost under proposed constitutional amendments shifting the country to an executive presidential system of governance. 

“We are deeply concerned that such a development will further divide Turkey and will put it into a serious internal and external crisis at a time when the Republic of Turkey is facing terrorism, economic difficulties and the threat of war,” read the statement signed by 62 former diplomats over the weekend. 

Parliament has approved the first round of an 18-article package of constitutional amendments changing Turkey from its current parliamentary system to an executive-presidency, granting extensive extra powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. If approved by over 330 deputies in a final round of voting this week, the package will be submitted to the public in a referendum.

“The Republic of Turkey will lose its qualifications as a democratic, secular and rule of law-based state if this proposal is legislated,” added the statement. 

It also criticized the government for attempting to change the constitution “without obeying fundamental rules of the constitution” and at a moment when public opinion is not well informed about its content due to the ongoing state of emergency.
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