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Iran Press TV

Turkey's pro-Kurdish party set to boycott vote on presidential powers

Iran Press TV

Tue Jan 10, 2017 1:30PM

Turkey's pro-Kurdish party is set to boycott a parliamentary vote on planned changes to the constitution that would envisage expanded powers for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ayhan Bilgen, a lawmaker and spokesman for the Peoples' Democratic Party, also known as the HDP, said on social networking website Twitter late on Monday that lawmakers would boycott a controversial new draft constitution in protest against the arrest of its lawmakers.

"We will not use our vote for this illegitimate reform while our deputies are unjustly under arrest and prevented from carrying out their duties," Bilgen said.

Selahattin Demirtas, one of the HDP's co-leaders, earlier denounced the debates from behind bars. Demirtas said the arrest of 11 members of the party had stripped them of their chance to challenge the draft constitution and "makes the debate and the vote controversial from the very start."

Nearly a dozen HDP members of parliament are currently in jail for alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is listed as a "terrorist" organization

On December 30, 2016, the draft law, submitted by the ruling Justice and Development Party, also known as the AKP, passed the parliament's constitutional commission. Turkey's parliament on Monday began debating the new constitution.

Debate on the proposals is expected to last for two weeks and upon approval by the legislature, the reformed constitution will be put to a referendum before the spring.

Supporters of the draft say such a law would enable the head of state to restore stability to the country, which has been shaken by terrorist attacks and a botched military coup in July 2016.

Critics, however, denounce it as a means of restoration of the Ottoman era powers to Erdogan, whom they see as an authoritarian figure.

The draft, if approved, would allow Erdogan to stay in office for two more terms until 2029, pave the way for the abolition of the post of prime minister, in which Erdogan himself served from 2003 until 2014, and enable the appointment of vice presidents.

It will also empower the president to appoint and fire ministers.

Other proposed amendments would increase the number of seats in the 550-member parliament to 600, reduce the minimum age of legislators from 25 to 18 and set parliamentary and presidential elections on the same day.

The ruling AKP, which currently has 317 seats in the parliament, needs a majority of 330 out of the 550 seats available to call a referendum on the draft law.

Critics have claimed the move is part of a power grab by President Erdogan but supporters say the presidential system is needed for efficient government.

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