ANKARA, Turkey â€” Turkey's parliament is scheduled on Wednesday to start a second round of deliberations on a contentious package of constitutional amendments that would give President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office executive powers.
Legislators are set to vote separately on 18 proposed amendments before holding a final vote on the whole package by the end of the week.
Debate on the draft amendments that would turn Turkey's parliamentary system into a presidential system has been tense and last week resulted in brawls between ruling and opposition party lawmakers.
The ruling party, founded by Erdogan, argues that a strong presidency is needed to strengthen Turkey as it confronts multiple terrorism threats. Critics say the changes will concentrate too many powers in the hands of Erdogan, who is accused of authoritarian tendencies, and erode checks and balances on his rule.
Erdogan has long pushed for a presidential system saying a strong head of state will thrust Turkey toward its goal of becoming a world power by 2023, when the Turkish Republic marks its centenary. Currently, the presidency is largely ceremonial.
On Wednesday, Erdogan renewed his support for the amendments that would abolish the office of the prime minister, saying the change will put an end to possible power struggles between the premier and the president â€” who are both popularly elected. Erdogan became the country's first directly elected president in 2014.
If the reform bill secures at least 330 votes in the 550-seat assembly, it would then be put to a national referendum.
The reforms, which have the support of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party, have garnered sufficient votes in the first round of voting last week.
On Wednesday, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party which is vehemently against the amendments, met with the nationalist party's leader to "convey his concerns."
The debate coincides with tough times for Turkey, which has suffered a wave of bombings, renewed conflict with Kurdish rebels in the southeast, a military offensive in Syria and a failed coup attempt.
The botched July 15 coup set the stage for a sweeping purge of state institutions that has alarmed rights groups and Western governments.
The Associated Press