Debate heats up over constitutional reform in Turkey

Legislators from the ruling AK Party and main opposition CHP had a heated exchange on Wednesday as parliament debated changes to the constitution.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Lawmakers from the ruling AK Party and the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) scuffle during a debate on the proposed constitutional changes at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, Turkey January 11, 2017.

Scuffles between Turkish lawmakers from the governing AK Party and main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) broke out on Wednesday during a general assembly debate on constitutional changes.

Parliament is debating a package of constitutional reforms that would alter the way Turkey is run – including changing to a system that would grant wide-ranging powers to the president and scrap the position of prime minister.

The ruckus involving lawmakers from the two major parties prompted the speaker to adjourn the session.

The bill needs the support of at least 330 deputies in the 550-seat assembly to go to a referendum, expected in the spring. The AK Party has 316 deputies eligible to vote, and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which also backs the bill, has 39.

The first four amendments have each passed with at least 341 votes in favour.

The CHP, with 133 seats, and the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), with 59 deputies oppose the changes. But their combined vote of 198 falls well short of the mandate needed to block the bill's passage.

The government has said it will call an election if parliament does not approve the constitutional amendments.

TRTWorld and agencies