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Erdogan approves bill on constitutional reforms, paving way for referendum

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan walks past an honor guard, in the capital, Ankara, February 7, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has approved a bill that would change the country’s political system into a presidential one if such a change is approved in a referendum.

Erdogan approved the bill on Friday, paving the way for Turkey’s electoral board to arrange the referendum.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus announced that the referendum “is planned to take place on April 16.”

“God willing, Turkey will start a new era on the evening of April 16,” Kurtulmus said.

The Turkish parliament had ratified the bill on the constitutional reforms last month.

If the constitutional reforms are approved in the referendum, Erdogan will be granted the power to appoint government ministers and senior officials, reassume the leadership of the ruling AK party, and govern until 2029.

Binali Yildirim, the Turkish prime minister and the leader of the ruling AK Party, arrives for a debate on proposed constitutional changes at Turkish Parliament, in Ankara, January 12, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Currently, the president is the head of the Turkish state, but executive powers are concentrated in the hands of the country’s prime minister.

The president will also be given the authority to dissolve parliament, declare states of emergency, issue decrees, and appoint half of the members in the country’s highest judicial body.

Erdogan says the changes will provide stability at a time of turmoil and prevent a return to the fragile coalitions of the past. His opponents, however, say increasing the president’s power would slide the country toward authoritarian rule.

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