Turkey's AKP to set up constitutional change commission with nationalists


ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's ruling AK Party is to set up a commission with a nationalist opposition party to discuss a draft of constitutional reforms, the minority MHP leader said on Tuesday, a move designed to give President Tayyip Erdogan more powers.


Devlet Bahceli indicated last week that his MHP nationalists might support the reforms, and the extra votes in parliament would be enough to allow Erdogan to call a referendum.


The MHP wants to see restoration of the death penalty as part of the package. Erdogan has said he would approve reinstating capital punishment - a move likely to end Turkey's EU accession process - if parliament passes the reforms.


Speaking at his party's parliamentary group meeting, Bahceli said the MHP had received the AKP draft and was looking at it.


Erdogan has long wanted an executive presidency, a Turkish version of the system in the United States or France, saying the country needs strong leadership. His opponents fear the change would mean growing authoritarianism.

"We are conducting evaluations on the text very carefully," Bahceli said after the MHP met. "We then aim to swiftly bring to parliament the clauses on which we agree in the commission."

"We will take part in the commission as long as it defends the views of the MHP," he said.

The main opposition CHP and the pro-Kurdish HDP, the two biggest opposition parties, both oppose an executive presidency.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the government would call for a referendum on the executive presidency however much support it won in parliament. Some AK Party officials have said it could take place in the spring of 2017.

Any constitutional change needs the support of at least 367 deputies in the 550-seat assembly to pass directly, and of 330 to go to a referendum. The AKP has 317 seats, and the MHP 40.

(Reporting by Ercan Gurses; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Humeyra Pamuk and Louise Ireland)

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