Turkish President approves charter draft, referendum likely to be April 16

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan approved on Feb. 10 constitutional amendments that will bring drastic changes to the country’s political system, including a shift to an executive presidential system from the current parliamentary system.

The package will now be put to a referendum, likely on April 16, in accordance with a date to be selected by the Supreme Election Board (YSK).

The Turkish parliament sent the constitutional amendments for the president’s approval on Feb. 2, 12 days after it passed the parliament by exceeding the 330-vote threshold to bring it to a referendum.

The constitutional amendment brings a strong partisan presidential system that will take over all authorities of the prime minister and cabinet and also will have the authority to issue decrees in effect of law, to appoint vice presidents and cabinets who can be outside of the parliament and not elected, and to hold the title “head of the state.” For the first time since the use of this term for Kenan Evren, Turkey’s former coup leader and seventh president, with the provisional article of the 1982 Constitution, the title “head of the state” enters the constitution as an article.

The president will be given the authority to annul parliament and declare an election, while they will also have the authority to declare a state of emergency, during which they will have the authority to issue decrees without any restriction of jurisdiction.

The duties and authorities of the parliament are amended in the amendments, with its authority to supervise ministerial cabinet and ministers, as well as its authority to assign cabinet to issue decrees in effect of law, being abolished. Lawmakers will only be able to supervise ministers and the government with written statements, since the motion of interpellation will also be abolished.

The configuration of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) is similarly altered, with its number of members reduced from 22 to 13. Out of 13 members, four will be appointed by the president, while the justice minister – who will be appointed by the president – will be the chair of the board and the undersecretary will be a permanent member. The seven remaining members will be elected by the parliamentary majority, which will likely to be the political party of the president.