Ankara-Turkey is now officially awaiting a referendum set to take place on April 16 after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan approved a constitutional reform package, paving the way for a vote that would expand presidential powers.
The new amendment, if passed, could allow the Turkish president to stay in power until 2029, while presidential and parliamentary elections will be held at the same time in Nov. 2019, when Erdogan will be eligible to run for two new five-year terms.
Turkey’s presidential office announced in a statement Friday that Erdogan approved the bill which sets the date for a referendum on widespread changes to the country’s constitution.
The 18-Article bill will now be sent to the premiership to be published in the country’s Official Gazette, setting the date for a vote.
Shortly after Erdogan signed the proposal, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced that Turkey will hold the referendum on April 16.
“Our president has approved the bill. So the date for a public vote is fixed. The referendum will be held on April 16,” Yildirim told reporters following Friday prayers in the central Anatolian province of Nevsehir.
Last Jan. 21, the constitutional reform bill was approved by 339 votes in the 550-member assembly. The legislation needed at least 330 deputies before going to a public vote.
The reform, if passed, would enable the president to issue decrees, declare emergency rule, appoint ministers and top state officials and dissolve parliament. The reform will also increase the number of lawmakers in the Parliament from 550 to 600 deputies and will lower the voting age from 25 to 18.
Hours after signing the amendment package, Erdogan told a ceremony in Turkey’s central Aksaray province that his country has now reached an important crossroads on the way to changing its system.
“The presidential system brought about by amending the Constitution will strengthen Turkey’s efforts to achieve its goals by protecting its unity, solidarity, and brotherhood,” he said.