55 Million Start Voting in Turkey’s Landmark Referendum

55 Million Start Voting in Turkey’s Landmark Referendum

Turkey’s decisive referendum has started after weeks of tense campaigning by the “yes” and “no” camps regarding an 18-article constitutional amendment that will endow the president with vastly enhanced powers.

Some 55 million Turkish voters are eligible to cast votes today following a divisive campaign that was launched in October 2016 when the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) announced its support to the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) long-anticipated project of replacing the current government system with a presidential system with power concentrated in one hand.

The MHP’s support represented a U-turn from its previous views and came in the wake of the failed July 2016 coup attempt that pushed the nationalist party to endorse the AKP’s plan to ostensibly strengthen the Turkish state against such potential attempts in the future.

Parliament approved the amendments in late January with 339 votes from the AKP-MHP alliance while the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) stood against government system alteration, Hurriyet Daily reported.

If the package is approved, the president will be able to retain ties with the political party he or she belongs to.

As part of the changes, both the office of the prime minister and the cabinet will be abolished while the president will acquire all executive powers with the authority to issue decrees on the state’s structure as well as its functions.

The changes also grant authority to the president to issue decrees within the executive jurisdiction, declare a state of emergency and appoint public officials. But presidential decrees will not be permitted on issues concerning human rights or basic freedoms, or to override existing laws.

The president will be able to declare a state of emergency without necessary cabinet approval and to draft the budget, which is currently drawn up by parliament. The changes will allow the president to dissolve the parliament which will trigger the renewal of presidential and parliamentary elections simultaneously.

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