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Turkish voters approve constitutional reforms

Constitutional amendments [text, in Turkish] previously annulled [JURIST report] by the Constitutional Court [official website, in Turkish] of Turkey were approved by a 58 percent popular vote [press review] Sunday, marking a major victory for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish]. The vote, which took place on the thirtieth anniversary of the 1980 coup that ushered in the current constitution, permits the implementation of sweeping reforms aimed at limiting the power of the judiciary and bringing the traditionally-secular military and judiciary under government control. The reforms will allow military officers to be tried in civilian court over alleged coup plots and crimes against the constitution and will also limit the power of the judiciary. In his victory speech [text, in Turkish], Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official profile, in Turkish] called the referendum a "historic milestone" that will be a "turning point" for the country.

In July, the Constitutional Court annulled those portions of government-approved amendments, but declined to annul all the amendments as requested [JURIST reports] by Turkey's opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) [party website, in Turkish]. Proponents of the reforms have insisted they are necessary in order for Turkey to meet the democratic and human rights standards required for admission to the EU. Opponents, however, have argued the reforms are meant to consolidate power and to bring the traditionally secular judiciary and military under control of the government. Turkey has faced several obstacles as it works toward membership in the EU, including opposition to the constitutional reforms, its human rights record, its stance toward political parties and tension [JURIST news archive] between the AKP and the military.

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