Turkish parliament nears approval of presidential system

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan addresses district governors at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, January 10, 2017. Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey edged closer to adopting a constitutional bill extending President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers overnight, with parliament approving four more articles of a reform which opponents see as a step towards an authoritarian state.

Erdogan, who could rule the European Union candidate country until 2029 if the legislation is passed, says it will provide stability at a time of turmoil and prevent a return to the fragile coalitions of the past.

During the evening debate an independent lawmaker, Aylin Nazliaka, handcuffed herself to the podium in protest against the stronger presidency, triggering a scuffle between MPs of the ruling AK Party and opposition parties. [L5N1F93ST]

The reform would enable the president to issue decrees, declare emergency rule, appoint ministers and top state officials and dissolve parliament - powers that the two main opposition parties say strip away balances to Erdogan’s power.

With the adoption of the latest four articles overnight, the assembly has now approved 11 articles in the second round of voting. It is on track to pass the remaining seven articles and vote on the package as a whole on Friday night.

Providing it garners the support of at least 330 deputies in the 550-member assembly in the remaining votes, the legislation will go to a referendum, expected in the spring.

Erdogan assumed the presidency, a largely ceremonial position, in 2014 after over a decade as prime minister. Since then, pushing his powers to the limit, he has continued to dominate politics by dint of his personal popularity.

Critics accuse him of increasing authoritarianism with the arrests and dismissal of tens of thousands of judges, police, military officers, journalists and academics since a failed military coup in July. Erdogan points to a danger from Islamic State and Kurdish militants.

Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Michael Perry