Turkey Plans Constitutional Changes, Spurring More Fears Over Erdogan's Growing Power

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says political parties in Turkey had found common ground to pass a limited number of constitutional changes.

Erdogan shakes hands with Turkey's Chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party Devlet Bahceli as Yildirim looks on during a meeting with leaders of the main political parties in Ankara July 25, 2016.
Kayhan Ozer, AFP

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said political parties had found enough common ground after a failed coup to pass a limited number of constitutional changes Monday.

He also spoke of an aim to eventually draft a new constitution.

Yildirim’s announcement comes as fears intensify about President Tayyip Erdogan’s sweeping crackdown on alleged coup plotters, which have Turks and the EU concerned.

Since the failed July 15 coup, Turkish authorities have detained or suspended more than 60,000 people. Turkey has suspended 37,500 civil servants and police officers, revoked the license of 21,000 teachers and detained more than 13,000 people.   

Also on Monday, Turkey issued warrants for the detention of 42 journalists with suspected links to the alleged organizers of a failed military uprising driving concern that media could be targeted for any news coverage critical of the government.

 'Who is going to protect us? There is no judiciary, there is no independence,' Editor of LeMan magazine Safet Aknar said.

Last week, Turkish police halted distribution of his magazine and went store to store, collecting already distributed copies after the publishing of their "special coup edition."

Since the coup attempt, the government has blocked 20 websites suspected of being a threat to security, including those of six news outlets and two television channels.

What critics call a growing restriction on expression, Erdogan defends as acting in support of democracy.

Political upheaval after the coup could upend Turkish democracy, but Yildirim painted a different picture, saying that the government, opposition parties, nongovernmental organizations and media had all come together.

Some of what is expected to be included in the constitutional changes has the EU concerned about Turkey’s bid for entry into the organization.

EU Commision President Jean-Claude Junker said if Turkey reintroduces the death penalty, which the government said it will be considering, it would stop the process of Turkey joining the EU.

Yildirim also said the gendarmes and coast guard, which were under the command of the Turkish armed forces, would now report to the civilian interior ministry.