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Turkey's ruling AKP submits constitutional reform package to parliament – party officials

ANKARA Turkey’s ruling AK Party on Saturday submitted to parliament a package of constitutional reform proposals that would expand the president’s powers, party officials said, in a move that could potentially see President Tayyip Erdogan govern until 2029.

The package would also bring structural changes to Turkey’s security and judiciary, implementing criminal liability for the president, who previously was immune from all crimes except treason.

The AKP, unable to legalise the changes on its own, has been meeting with the nationalist MHP in order to introduce an executive presidential system long sought by Erdogan and his supporters.

Any constitutional change needs the support of at least 330 deputies in the 550-seat assembly to go to a referendum. The AKP has 316 lawmakers eligible for voting, and the MHP 39.

Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said on Friday that Turkey planned to hold a referendum by next May at the latest on the constitutional changes and then presidential and parliamentary elections together in 2019.

Erdogan has turned a largely ceremonial presidency into a powerful platform at a time of domestic upheaval by drawing on his unrivalled popularity. The AKP now seeks a strong executive presidency that while formalising his personal powers could avert any relapse into the fractious coalition governments of the 1990s.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ercan Gurses; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

-Reuters