Turkey's parliament rejected on Monday a government proposal to make it harder to ban political parties, in a surprise development.
The article won the support of 327 deputies in the 550-seat assembly, falling short of the 330 votes needed for it to be accepted in the final round of voting. The article as a result will be dropped from the reform package.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to call a referendum if the AK Party fails to secure the necessary number of votes for the reform package as a whole.
"We will continue on our path. Withdrawing the constitutional draft is not on the agenda," Erdogan said after parliament rejected the amendment in a second round of voting.
327 deputies voted for the article while 76 voted against it. Two deputies abstained while two votes were cancelled, anatolia Agency said.
The Article 8 of the government bill was one of the controversial articles of the constituional amendment package, like two other issues aiming to change the constitution of the Supreme Board of Judges (HSYK) and Prosecutors and the Constitutional Court.
The hardline-secularist opposition has accused the government of using judiciary reform as an excuse to install its supporters in the Constitutional Court and undermine secular principles.
The package also calls for making the secular army accountable to civilian courts.
AK Party holds 336 seats in the parliament. However the parliament speakers are not allowed to vote in the parliament which reduces potential votes in favour of the bill to 335.
The EU has criticised Turkey's political parties law, under which almost 20 parties have been banned since the constitution was adopted in 1982 following a coup.
Both the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and second opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) declared they would not support the bill.
Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) which crticised the amendment boycotted the voting in the first round. The second round of the voting which began on May 2, Sunday will last until May 9.
A total of 30 secret votes will be held in the second round.
Erdogan has been personally lobbying AK Party MPs to support the package and cancelled a planned Turkey-Italy summit in Rome last month to make sure all the articles won support.
"We didn't expect this to happen. We are sorry and surprised. Eight to nine of our party MPs voted against the article," said Nurettin Canikli, an AK Party MP.
"This shows the party does not force its MPs to vote in favour of the proposed reforms."
The amendment package will abolish the provisional article 15 of the constitution which does not allow trial of the members of the National Security Council formed after a coup in 1980.
The bill will also abolish the ban on right to general strike; paves the way for a citizen to become a member of more than one union, and the civil servants and other public officials the right to collective bargaining.
It also paves the way for trial of parliament speaker, chief of general staff, and senior commanders by the High Tribunal on charges of crimes they commit regarding their positions.
If the bill is to be put to referendum, it is expected to be voted as a whole.
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Last Mod: 04 Mayıs 2010, 09:00