Turkish MPs hurt in brawl over constitution reform

"The shift to a presidential system as outlined in the constitutional package will give Erdogan unparalleled power while the system of checks and balances has been literally thrown out of the window", Teneo Intelligence Co-President Wolfango Piccoli said in an e-mail on Wednesday.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, along with other ruling party politicians, took to Twitter after parliament's decision, and voiced support for the changes. One of the major changes was the role and status of the president, and how the elections will be held.

After weeks of raucous parliamentary debate that included fisticuffs and chair-throwing, lawmakers in Turkey overwhelmingly passed several constitutional amendments early Saturday that, if approved by the public, would grant President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greatly enhanced powers. "With our people's "yes" vote, this door will be completely opened", Bozdag wrote on Twitter.

Erdogan assumed the presidency, a largely ceremonial position, in 2014 after over a decade as prime minister.

The bill envisions granting the office of the presidency - now a largely ceremonial position - the power to appoint government ministers and senior officials, dissolve parliament, declare states of emergency, issue decrees and appoint half of the members in the country's highest judicial body.

"This parliament prepared a constitution that could lead Turkey to a Middle East dictatorship, not a contemporary democracy", said Deniz Baykal, a leader of the opposition Republican People's Party, said in an interview with Yenicag, a Turkish daily newspaper, a few days before the vote. 339 MPs have voted in favor of the bill. The referendum could also allow Erdogan to stay in office till 2029. Erdogan's existing time as president will not be counted.

The president will be allowed to issue decrees and retain ties to a political party.

The president's supporters have argued that the accumulated challenges - and the need to impose order - are precisely the reason that Erdogan needs a freer hand to govern. Islamic State militants based there have attacked Turkish cities and border posts, killing scores.

A change to the presidential system would be a crowning achievement for Erdogan, who has outmaneuvered and crushed all his major foes.

The bill indicates a person can be elected president for two, five-year terms.

  • Jon Douglas