The Turkish Parliament [official website] on Saturday approved a plan which, if approved by vote later this year, would increase presidential power within the country and would allow President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to stay in office until 2029. The referendum acquired 339 votes, nine more than required, to go to a public vote. Among the new powers [Reuters report] granted to the president would be the power to issue decrees, declare emergency, appoint top state officials and ministers, and the power to dissolve parliament. In addition, Erdoğan, who was previously the minster of the ruling AK Party, could once again become a leader within that party. Also, the referendum states that a president would be allowed to serve two terms of five years. While Erdoğan proclaims this increase in power would allow for stability in a time of turmoil, his opponents worry such powers may lead to authoritarian control of the nation.
Since the failed coup in Turkey in July, where Turkish military forces tried to overthrow the government, the Turkish government has taken several controversial steps to strengthen its power. In November Turkey significantly restricted the activities of NGOs [JURIST report] like human rights organizations and children’s groups and arrested opposition party leaders [JURIST report] alleging they were connected to terror organizations. In October Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] warned [JURIST report] that the emergency decrees put in place after the failed coup, had resulted in serious human rights violations. In July Amnesty International [advocacy website] condemned [JURIST report] Turkey for attacking the freedom of the press by issuing arrest warrants for 42 journalists.