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Turkish government submits constitutional reform package to parliament

[JURIST] The Turkish ruling party on Tuesday submitted its controversial reform package to parliament, despite warnings from Turkish President Abdullah Gul [BBC profile] that the party should take more precautions before amending the constitution. The reform package contains seven revisions [Hurriyet report] from the original amendments unveiled last week [JURIST report], including a highly-disputed reform to the judiciary system that would allow military and government officials to be tried in civilian court. The reform would also make it harder for the government to disband political parties that challenge the country's nationalist establishment and would ban the prosecution of the 1980 coup leaders. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish] created the amendments to promote democracy in Turkey and support its bid into the European Union (EU) [official website]. The parliamentary vote will take place next week, but will most likely be put to a public referendum as there may not be adequate support between the parties. Opposition parties have spoken out against the reforms, holding that the amendments are not aimed at enhancing democratic principles, but instead to cement AKP's standing as the ruling party.

The proposed amendments have been met with opposition by Turkey's Supreme Court [official website, in Turkish]. In an interview last week, the president of the court Hasan Gerceker [official profile, in Turkish] declared that the proposed amendments threaten separation of power and judicial independence [JURIST report]. Turkey has faced several obstacles as it works toward membership in the EU, including its human rights record, its stance towards political parties, and tension [JURIST news archive] between the AKP and the military.

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