ANKARA – The Turkish Parliament has approved two controversial amendments to the Constitution that would hand all executive power to the president, the nation’s semi-public news agency said on Wednesday.
Each of the 18 articles due to be submitted to the 550 lawmakers in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey must receive at least 330 votes in order to be approved.
The first article, motioning that the judiciary should be undertaken by independent and neutral courts was pushed through Parliament with 347 votes, Anadolu news said.
The second, which sought to increase the number of Parliament seats to 600, passed with 343 votes.
The package of 18 constitutional amendments was proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which was founded by current President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The reforms have received the considerable support from the AKP as well as the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
With 355 parliamentary seats between them, this unofficial nationalist parliamentary bloc promises to be a formidable adversary for the left-wing opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
Although the current charter decrees that constitutional amendments must be decided in a secret ballot, many AKP lawmakers were reported to have provoked fierce debate in the chamber after they showed their votes.
According to the center-left newspaper “Cumhuriyet,” a previous attempt to alter the Constitution in 2010 was annulled by a court after lawmakers failed to keep their votes secret.
According to the vice-president of the CHP’s parliamentary group, Engin Altay, several AKP members held their votes up to Erdogan in an apparent display of obedience.
“A shame! A scandal! Obey the laws for once in your life, to whom are you showing the vote? To the president! You are disrespecting the people,” Altay said during the voting process.
The ruling AKP was seeking to pass all 18 articles through Parliament within a week so that the amendments could be submitted to a referendum in early April.
The CHP sought to delay this process.