Turkish parliament nears sending constitutional changes to referendum

Turkish parliament nears sending constitutional changes to referendum

In a late night sitting on Sunday, Turkey’s parliament took the first step in approving constitutional reforms designed to create

Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters

In a late night sitting on Sunday, Turkey’s parliament took the first step in approving constitutional reforms designed to create a stronger presidency. On Wednesday, the assembly will begin the second and final round of voting on the amendments, which is expected to finish on Saturday.

Despite protests from the opposition, it appears the AK Party – which has secured votes from the nationalist MHP – will get the support it needs to pass the reforms in parliament. Whether that happens this week or sometime after, it is likely that Turks will have their say in a referendum sometime in late March or early April. Whether that vote passes is another matter entirely.

Turks find themselves in a difficult position. On the one hand, the frequent terrorist attacks that have rocked the country over the past year may make President Erdogan’s ‘one captain’ strongman approach an attractive option. On the other, the president is partially responsible for these security concerns – Erdogan ordered the resumption of hostilities with Kurdish militants in July, and his blind eye-approach to Islamists going to Syria has also come home to roost.

Turkey’s economy is also performing poorly, contracting by 2.7% in Q3 last year. The lira is 2017’s worst performing currency and President Erdogan’s opposition to interest rate hikes means the supposedly independent central bank only has ineffective tools to counteract further devaluation.

Despite all this, Mr Erdogan remains deeply popular with much of the Turkish population and his chances of securing more power are good.