World Bulletin / News Desk
The article, which stipulates parliamentary and presidential elections be held on the same day for five-year terms, was endorsed by 343 of the assembly’s 550 lawmakers; 139 others rejected it, 64 MPs were absent, 2 papers were left blank and 2 votes were deemed invalid.
Thursday marks the fourth day since the debate over the constitutional reforms began in parliament.
On Tuesday and late on Wednesday, the first three items of the constitution were adopted.
Those items concerned the exercise of judicial power, an increase in parliament seats, and the lowering of the age of MP candidacy, respectively.
Fourteen more amendments proposed by the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party will be voted in parliament.
The parliamentary process will likely be followed by a referendum in which the option of replacing Turkey’s parliamentary system with a presidential model will be put to the electorate.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his supporters have argued that Turkey needs a strong presidency to avoid weak governance and allow the country to successfully tackle a number of challenges, including terror attacks from ISIL, the PKK and the Fetullah Terror Organization (FETO).
Opponents claim it will weaken democratic checks and lead to increased authoritarianism.
To reach a referendum, the proposed changes must first be passed by 330 deputies. If it gets the support of 367 lawmakers it could pass into law without a referendum, although the ruling AK Party has said it will hold a popular vote regardless.
A simple majority must agree to the changes in a referendum.
The AK Party has 316 seats and Erdogan hopes the support of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which has 39 seats and which last month agreed to back the package, will be enough to secure a referendum.
Parliament’s other parties -- the Republican People's Party (CHP), which has 133 seats, and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), with 59 deputies -- remain opposed to a presidential system. Two independent deputies are split over support for the amendments.
Among the changes are plans for an elected president to form a government independently of parliament and for the role of the prime minister -- typically the person leading the largest parliamentary party -- to be abandoned.
Parliamentary and presidential elections would be held on the same day every five years, instead of the current four for the parliamentary vote.
The president would be limited to two terms of office but will not be required to leave his or her political party. When elected to the presidency in August 2014, Erdogan had to resign as AK Party leader due to the supposedly apolitical nature of the post.
In the judiciary, the Constitutional Court, Turkey’s highest court for constitutional affairs, would be reduced to 15 members while the Supreme Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors, which deals with judicial and prosecution appointments, would add the justice minister to its number.