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Turkish reforms sent to commission, opposition threatens court

31 March 2010 [17:37] - TODAY.AZ
Turkey's parliament sent a draft constitutional reform package to a parliamentary commission on Wednesday, despite a threat from the main opposition party to block the move through the Constitutional Court.
The ruling AK Party says the changes are needed to strengthen Turkey's democracy and support its attempt to become a member of the European Union.

Critics say the amendments are designed to consolidate its power ahead of polls due by July next year, and reduce the influence of old secular elites in the judiciary and military.

The proposed measures would change the way judges are appointed, make it harder to ban political parties and make the military accountable to civilian courts.

Parliament Chairman Mehmet Ali Sahin said he sent the draft to be vetted by a parliamentary commission, in the face of criticism from nationalist, secular opposition parties and senior judges.

"I have sent it to our parliament's Constitutional Committee, the most authoritative specialised commission, which will assess all claims and reach a decision," Sahin said.

The commission is expected to discuss the draft next week.

The speaker disregarded a threat from the main secularist opposition Republican People's Party to issue a challenge in the Constitutional Court if he sent the draft to the commission.

"I am not of the view that there is such a path or a possibility," Sahin said.

The government lacks the two-thirds majority in parliament to pass the reforms. It is seeking backing from a Kurdish party, which would make the vote closer, but still leave the government short.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said he plans to call for a referendum if parliament rejects the reforms.

Lawmakers are unlikely to vote on the package before mid-April, as the proposals have to go through parliamentary scrutiny before a bill is finalised. Any referendum would probably be held two months later.

Opinion polls have shown the government has public backing for changing a charter that was written by a military government in 1982, two years after a coup.

/World Bulletin/

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