The Council of Europe has censured a hotly-pursued drive by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to change the country’s parliamentary ruling system to a presidential one.
In a non-binding statement on Friday, a legal panel of the Council said the controversial political change in Turkey would be a "dangerous step backwards” for democracy.
Erdogan submitted the proposed constitutional reforms to the Turkish parliament in January. The legislature approved the draft, and a referendum has been scheduled for April 16 for the public to weigh in on the reforms.
The European panel said the amendments would give the president "the power to dissolve parliament on any grounds whatsoever, which is fundamentally alien to democratic presidential systems.”
The president would be able to serve for a maximum of two five-year-long mandates. That means that Erdogan could end up staying in office for two more terms until 2029, with the next elections scheduled for 2019.
The new constitution would also reportedly pave the way for the abolition of the post of prime minister, in which Erdogan served from 2003 until 2014, and enable the appointment of vice presidents. It would also empower the president to hire and fire ministers.
The panel said such a presidential system would be weakening the "already inadequate system of judicial oversight of the executive.”
The Council is to release its comprehensive legal opinion on the matter on Monday.