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Turkey

Turkish MPs back constitutional reforms in first parliament vote

Turkish MPs have approved 18 constitutional amendments that grant expansive powers to President Erdogan in a first vote. If the measures pass a second round, a referendum on the changes could take place this spring.

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Turkish constitutional reforms pass first vote

Turkey's parliament backed controversial constitutional amendments on Sunday that would bolster the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The vote was the first of two readings.

The MPs approved the final two sections of the 18-article new constitution after a week of debating that began on January 9 and included sessions that lasted late into the night.

Lawmakers must now wait 48-hours before voting a second and final time on the amendments that seek to change Turkey from a parliamentary system to a presidential one. The second reading is expected to start on Wednesday where the 18 articles will be debated one by one.

If passed in the second round, the constitutional reforms would then be put to the public in a referendum which could take place as early as this spring.

The amendments would turn the presidency into the office that runs the government and weaken the legislature.

Under the constitutional changes, the president would have the power to appoint and fire ministers while the post of prime minister would be abolished for the first time in Turkey's history. The post would be replaced with one or several vice presidents.

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), founded by Erdogan, had been pushing for the constitutional changes for years while Erdogan was still prime minister, claiming that a strong leadership would lead to greater prosperity. Opponents say that the changes would inadvertently inflate the president's authoritarian ways and allow him to rule without checks and balances in place.

Fights broke out in parliament on Thursday as lawmakers debated the reforms, with punches thrown, and deputies blooded. One lawmaker even claimed to have been bitten on the leg.

Turkey has been under a state of emergency for almost six months following a failed coup last year on July 15. The amendments would also widen the scope of conditions in which the president can declare an emergency.

rs/kl  (AFP, dpa)

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