Turkey's parliament has approved Saturday a wide-ranging constitutional reform package which aims to vastly empower the presidency held by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, setting the scene for a referendum on the measures.
The final vote on the package passed with 339 votes in favour and 142 against. The measure required at least 330 to be approved and be put forward to a public vote, expected to be held in April.
Critics say the amendments will weaken checks and balances and the role of parliament and leave too much power concentrated in the office of the president. They are also concerned about the effect on the independence of the judiciary.
Erdogan, who has been at the helm of Turkey since 2003 - first as premier and since 2014 as president - is already accused of growing authoritarianism.
The president and his supporters say the changes will bring stability.
Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has 316 votes in the 550 member parliament. With help from most members of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in the house, the constitutional amendments passed.
The centre-left People's Republican Party (CHP) voted against the new measures and denounces what it calls regime change, saying parliament was weakening itself.
The leftist pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) boycotted casting votes, after the party's leadership in parliament was arrested.
The parliament has seen fist fights both at the commission level and in the general plenary over the controversial reforms, including one this week.
The vote comes six months after Turkey saw a failed coup attempt. The country has also been battered by extremist attacks and a renewed insurgency by Kurdish militants as well as signs of a faltering economy.
The measures to empower Erdogan, the most dominant figure in Turkish politics, have been in the works for some time.
Erdogan is expected in the coming two weeks to sign the package, a move which will then formally trigger a two months period, after which the referendum will be held.
The referendum requires a simple majority of voters to be passed.
By Shabtai Gold
© 2022 dpa GmbH