Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan approves bill that will give him unprecedented executive powers

Turkish public will vote on proposed constitutional changes in referendum announced for April

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Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has approved a controversial bill that could see him stay in office until 2029, before it goes to a country-wide referendum. 

Under the proposed far-reaching changes to the executive branch of government, the power to appoint and dismiss government ministers would become the duty of the president rather than the prime minister. 

The reform would also allow Mr Erdogan to become leader of the ruling party while in office again, and possibly stay in office for another 12 years.

Parliament approved the package in three votes and several rounds of intense – and sometimes violent – debate. 

While the bill was passed by MPs, it did not receive a big enough majority to become law without a public vote. Deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Friday that the referendum was likely to be held on April 26. 

During a January debate on the lengthy bill, prime minister Binali Yildirim said the reform would “resolve the problem of Turkey having two executive authorities.”

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“There needs to be one authority in the executive branch,” he said. “Two captains sink the ship, there needs to be one captain.”

Mr Erdogan’s ruling AK party argues that Turkey’s current fragile economic and security situations need strong leadership, but opponents have already voiced fears about the authoritarian nature of the bill. Critics say it would concentrate even more power in the hands of a leader they accuse of authoritarian behaviour with little tolerance for dissent. 

President Erdogan has steadily consolidated his control of Turkey’s branches of government since his election in 2014. 

There has been a particular crackdown on members of the opposition, academics, journalists and rights activists since a failed military coup in July last year, after which the government declared a state of emergency. 

If the proposed changes to the presidential system go ahead they will mark a crowning achievement for Mr Erdogan, whose AK party has already begun campaigning for a "yes" vote before the official campaigning period begins.

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