TURKEY’S secular opposition warned of a “totalitarian regime” as the parliament began debating new powers for the presidency yesterday.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) is pushing for the creation of an executive presidency in place of the current ceremonial — and ostensibly neutral — role of the head of state.
But Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu warned: “They are trying to turn the democratic parliamentary regime into a totalitarian regime.”
Police used pepper spray to disperse a group of MPs, lawyers and other protesters who tried to gather near an entrance to the parliament to oppose the proposed constitutional changes.
Some roads leading to parliament were blocked in an apparent bid to prevent demonstrators reaching the building.
The changes must be approved by two votes of the Grand National Assembly with the support of at least 330 of the 550 members.
The legislation would empower the president to appoint the government, propose budgets and to declare states of emergency, as well as allowing Mr Erdogan to serve another two terms, potentially until 2029.
The AKP has 317 MPs, but is counting on the support of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). If approved by MPs, the government will submit the package to a voter referendum for final approval, possibly in the spring.
Last week, the assembly voted to extend the state of emergency imposed following July’s failed military coup until the beginning of April.
That could allow the government to launch crackdowns in opposition strongholds — particularly majority Kurdish areas where the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has widespread support — with the side-effect of suppressing the vote.
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