Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday approved an 18-article bill [text, in Turkish] that would provide significant changes to Turkey’s constitution. A public referendum vote [Al Jazeera report] will be held on April 16 to see if the changes will be incorporated. Erdoğan has stated that the changes are necessary to provide stability in Turkey. Opponents of the bill have stated that the changes would remove some checks and balance of the president that could lead to Turkey being under a “one-man rule.” The bill would “enable the president to issue decrees, declare emergency rule, appoint ministers and top state officials and dissolve parliament.” If approved by the referendum vote, presidential elections would be held November 2019. The changes allow a president to serve up to two five-year terms. Erdoğan’s current time as president would not count towards to term limits set by the bill.
Turkey has had significant political turmoil July 2016 after a failed coup [JURIST report] attempt. Hundreds were killed in the attempt and tens of thousands have been been arrested. Since the coup attempt, tens of thousands have been fired [Guardian report] from government, media, academia, police, military, and civil service due to allegations of ties to the coup attempt. Human rights in Turkey have continued to be controversial for many years. Human Rights Watch (HRW) released [JURIST report] a report in July stating that Turkey has blocked access for independent investigations into mass abuses against civilians. Earlier in July a US federal court dismissed [JURIST report] a lawsuit against Muhammed Fethullah Gülen alleging he issued orders from Pennsylvania directing his followers in Turkey to launch a campaign of persecution against other religious groups in that country. US Secretary of State John Kerry has stated [Independent report] that the US would “consider” an extradition request for the cleric if it is proven that he was involved in the attempted coup. In May 2016 the Turkish parliament granted immunity to armed forces conducting counter-terrorism measures and advanced [JURIST reports] an amendment to strip immunity privileges from members of parliament.