A timeline of Turkey’s constitutional history

From restricting the authority of an Ottoman Sultan in 1808 to the election of a president by popular vote, Turkey's constitutional history is a story unto itself.

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Turkish citizens cast their votes prior to Turkey's upcoming constitutional referendum at the Turkish Consulate in Chicago, US.

Updated Apr 15, 2017

A historic referendum on constitutional changes in Turkey on April 16 will ask the electorate to vote on whether to approve an 18-article bill. Turkish citizens will decide to vote 'Yes' or 'No'. But it's not the nation's first major shift in governance nor amendments made to the constitution.

Here's a timeline of Turkey's constitutional history:


Charter of Alliance; an agreement between the central government of the Ottoman Empire and local rulers restricted the authority of sultan.


Ottoman constitution of 1876, the beginning of the constitutional era in Turkey.

The Ottoman Parliament (Meclis-i Umumi) opens for the first time in 1877. [Wikipedia]


Revisions to the existing constitution.


First constitution of the Republic of Turkey.


The new constitution, considered to be less democratic than the previous:

- No separation of powers. Executive and judiciary were also under parliament’s control

- De facto, no multiparty system


Religious remarks removed from the constitution


Fiscal amendments


Universal suffrage begins


Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) principles imposed on the constitution through the amendment


Military coup d'etat in Turkey, known as '27 May coup.'

The military coup in Turkey, was a coup d'état staged by a group of Turkish army officers, against the democratically elected government of the Democrat Party on May 27, 1960. [AP Archive]


Constitution instated after the coup. It introduced the bicameral system

- The executive branch is left to president and the council of ministers

- The judiciary branch is left to impartial courts. Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors established

- Supreme Court is established

- Unions, labour agreements and strikes are allowed


March 12 Memorandum


Council of Ministers were given the authority to issue decrees

- Civil servants’ right to establish unions was abolished

- Autonomy of universities weakened

- State security courts with expanded jurisdiction were established


September 12 coup d’état

The September 12, 1980 Turkish coup d'état, headed by Chief of the General Staff Kenan Evren, was the third coup d'état in the history of the Republic. [AA]


Another constitution instated after a coup. Unicameral system reinstated.

- Executive branch is empowered

- The focus shifted from the people to the state as opposed to previous constitutions.


- Voting age lowered to 19

- The number of MPs increased to 450 from 400

- Bans on certain leaders abolished


Restrictions on setting up TV and Radio stations eased


Freedom to set up unions for civil servants

- Workers and public servants were given right to labour agreements

- Voting age further lowered to 18

- The ban on political parties to establish women and youth branches abolished

- Academics and university students were given right to be members of political parties

- The number of MPs increased to 550


Coup d’état (Postmodern coup)


Military members of the State Security Court replaced by civilians

- Privatisation of state properties allowed


Crucial changes in line with European Court of Human Rights

- Freedom of communication included in the text

- Gender equality fortified

- Closing political parties made more difficult


Changes in the structure of the Radio and Television High Council


Age of candidacy for MP decreased to 25 from 30




Changes through referendum

- Elections to be held every four years instead of five

- The president is to be elected through popular vote.

- Presidential elections to be held every five years instead of seven. This did not apply to the incumbent Abdullah Gul.


Changes through referendum

- Changes in the structure of judiciary and courts.


Recep Tayyip Erdogan becomes the first president of Turkey directly elected through popular vote.

He previously served as the Prime Minister of Turkey from 2003 to 2014 and as the Mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998. [AA]


July 15 attempted coup d’état.

The coup plotters killed 246 and injured more than 2,000 civilians in Turkey. [Reuters]