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Turkish ruling party submits new version of proposed constitutional amendments

[JURIST] Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish] on Monday submitted a new version of their proposed Constitutional amendments [text, PDF; in Turkish] to the Grand National Assembly [official website, in Turkish]. The draft differs only slightly in substance from the previous version that the party submitted. One of the new additions is a proposal to alter Article 157 of the Constitution [text, in Turkish] so that judges of the Military Supreme Administrative Court would have judicial immunity and be shielded from spurious claims. Perhaps the most significant difference between the old and new versions is the signatures. The new version has signatures from 265 AKP representatives excluding Parliament Speaker Mehmet Ali Shahin [official profile, in Turkish]. Some controversy arose [Turkish Weekly report] after Shahin signed the first version because of his obligation to remain impartial as speaker. As a result, there was a strong likelihood that the proposed changes would have been dismissed for technical reasons. In light of the new proposal packet from AKP, a parliamentary committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday to discuss the previous version of the amendments was postponed.

The first version of AKP's proposed amendments was submitted to parliament [JURIST report] last Tuesday, 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 [JURIST report] at the end of March, 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. AKP says it created the amendments to promote democracy in Turkey and support its bid into the European Union (EU) [official website]. The proposed amendments have been met with opposition by Turkey's Supreme Court [official website, in Turkish]. In an interview in late March, 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].

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