Turkey approves presidential system in tight referendum. (Hurriyet Daily News, 17 April 2017)
Some 51.3 percent of the more than 58 million Turkish voters said “yes” to the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) constitutional amendment package in a tight race to decide on whether to shift to an executive presidential system. 

The gap between the two votes stood at around 1.3 million according to midnight figures by the state-run Anadolu Agency. The turnout exceeded 84 percent. 

The approval of the amendment package - which was backed by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and opposed by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the third largest party in parliament - means an administrative shift will take place in 2019 if no early elections are held. 

However, the ruling party is expected to call for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to return to lead the AKP, something that was officially forbidden in the former system due to the constitutional impartiality of the president. 

The most debated change in the 18-article package was the granting of executive powers to the elected president, who can pick his cabinet ministers from outside parliament. 
Accordingly, the parliamentary and presidential elections will be held on the same day every five years.

The president can appoint one or more vice presidents. The vice presidents will represent the president and will be able to use the authorities of the president in the event that the presidential post has become vacant for any reason. Vice presidents and ministers can be appealed to the Supreme Court by the same procedure as the president, and will benefit from the provisions of immunity about offences not related to their duties.

The “No” vote prevailed in Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir, the three largest cities in Turkey, with 51.3 percent, 51.1 percent and 68.8 percent of the vote respectively. 

The “Yes” vote reflected the AKP’s dominance in the Black Sea region, while “No” votes dominated in most southeastern provinces, where the Kurdish-issue focused HDP is strong. 
In votes cast overseas, the “Yes” camp won 59.27 percent while “No” votes won 40.73 percent. In Germany, “Yes” won 63.19 percent with 269,036 voters, while the “No” side won 36.81 percent with 157,467 voters. 

Tensions ran high between the two NATO allies before the referendum, with Germany canceling several campaign rallies by Turkish ministers on German soil, drawing accusations from Turkey of “Nazi tactics.” 

Tensions were also high point between the Netherlands and Turkey due to the former’s banning of campaign events by Turkish ministers. Family Affairs and Social Policies Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya was prevented by Dutch police from reaching Turkey’s consulate in Rotterdam on March 11 after being told not to enter the Netherlands to conduct political campaigning for the referendum. Kaya was subsequently deported to Germany by Dutch police early on March 12. In the Netherlands the “Yes” side won 69.93 percent of the vote and 47,911 votes, while the “No” side stood at 30.07 percent in the Netherlands with 20,602 votes. 

“No” votes prevailed in the United States with 83.26 percent and 3,362 votes, while 16,719 Turkish citizens voted “No” in the United States.

With the new amendments, elections can be renewed by both parliament and the president. If the parliament decides in favor of a re-election by 360 votes, parliamentary and presidential elections will be made at the same time. 

In addition, all military courts are lifted apart from disciplinary ones.

The configuration of the Constitutional Court has also changed, with the number of members reduced to 15 from 17. Twelve members will be appointed by the president while three will be appointed by parliament.

The name of the Supreme Board of Judges and Elections will be changed into the Board of Judges and Elections. The number of members will be cut to 13 from 22. The minister of justice will be the head of the board, while the undersecretary of the Justice Ministry will be a regular member. Four members will be appointed by the president, three by parliament, three by the Supreme Court, and one by the Council of State.

The president will have the authority to issue budgets for approval by the parliament.

With the change, the number of MPs will be increased to 600 from the current 550. The minimum age to be elected will be reduced to 18 from 25.

Debate on a parliamentary inquiry can be initiated about any misconduct of the president regarding presidential duties by the votes of 301 lawmakers. However, the parliamentary inquiry can only be initiated with 360 votes. If the inquiry concludes that the president has committed misconduct, a minimum 400 votes will open the path to appeal to the Supreme Court. The procedure will also be applicable after the term of the president ends.

17.04.2017