Turkish Lawmakers Approve Reform Bill, Bringing Erdogan Closer to Executive Power Boost

Proposed law to reform the constitution and give president greater authority now faces debate in general assembly set for January.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gestures as he talks prior to a soccer match, in Istanbul, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016.

The Turkish parliament's constitutional commission approved a draft constitutional reform law on Friday, paving the way for the general assembly to debate a bill expanding the president's powers, parliamentary sources said.

After a parliamentary vote, Turkey is set to hold a referendum on the changes by spring, a move that would enable President Tayyip Erdogan to acquire the executive presidency he has long sought.

The commission completed approval of the draft in a marathon 17-hour session that finished early on Friday, the sources said. The draft was presented to the commission on December 10 with 21 articles, but the approved version was reduced to 18 articles.

Debate on the bill is expected to begin in the parliament's main assembly in January.

Erdogan has turned a largely ceremonial presidency into a powerful platform by drawing on his unrivalled popularity. His opponents say the constitutional proposals could lead towards authoritarian rule in Turkey.

The ruling AK Party, founded by Erdogan more than a decade ago, wants the backing of the nationalist MHP opposition to see the plan through parliament. Any constitutional change needs the support of at least 330 deputies in the 550-seat assembly to go to a referendum.