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Turkey referendum on constitutional reforms set for April 16

Reforms would dramatically expand Erdogan’s powers and could see him remain in charge until 2029

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a rally in Sanliurfa, Turkey, January 6, 2017.  (Yasin Bulbul/Presidential Press Service, Pool photo via AP)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a rally in Sanliurfa, Turkey, January 6, 2017. (Yasin Bulbul/Presidential Press Service, Pool photo via AP)

ISTANBUL – Turkey will hold a referendum on April 16 on a proposal to dramatically expand President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers that could see him remain in charge until 2029.

Turkey’s electoral board has confirmed April 16 as the date of a national referendum on constitutional reforms, AP reported.

The High Electoral Board chief Sadi Guven said the date was determined following the publication of the bill Saturday on Turkey’s Official Gazette.

The government insists the proposals to create an executive presidency will ensure simpler and more effective leadership, but critics fear they will edge Turkey toward one-man rule.

Last month the Turkish Parliament approved a new 18-article constitution, which includes the presidency changes, in a final vote which saw 339 in favor and 142 against.

Each article was put to a vote in the 550-seat parliament, where the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) enjoys a comfortable majority of 317 including the speaker.

Speaking to supporters in Istanbul after the parliament vote, Erdogan said he believed they would “move towards the future by working night and day” for the referendum campaign.

The bill would create an executive presidency for the first time in modern Turkey, giving the head of state the power to hire and fire ministers.

It would also abolish the post of prime minister for the first time, with the position to be replaced with a vice president, or perhaps several.

He was elected in August 2014 and the new constitution could mean the clock on his presidency will be reset to zero from 2019, meaning he could remain in power until 2029 rather than 2024.

Turkey has been under a state of emergency for almost six months following a failed coup in July that sought to overthrow Erdogan.

Opponents have accused Erdogan of marching towards authoritarian rule, comparing the executive presidency to sultans of the Ottoman Empire.

 

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