Turkish lawmakers elected seven members to a reshaped judicial authority on Wednesday, pushing through a second of the recently approved constitutional changes that sharply increase President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.
Most appointments to the judicial council were previously decided by members of the judiciary, but last month’s close-run referendum passed that power to parliamentarians – a move which critics said would politicise the judiciary. The government says it will strengthen “democratic legitimacy”.
Turkey’s two largest opposition parties said they boycotted the overnight vote in parliament, arguing that the referendum was illegitimate and should be annulled.
Erdogan says that concentration of power in the presidency is needed to avoid instability. Opponents accuse him of undermining judicial independence and leading a drive towards one-man rule in Turkey, a NATO member whose stability is vital to the United States and European Union.
Under the changes approved in the referendum, the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK), which overseas the judiciary, is also being cut to 13 from 22 members.
The seven council members, chosen from two key courts and the legal profession, were approved with more than the required 330 votes in the 550-seat assembly.
The ruling AK Party has 317 seats in parliament and the nationalist MHP, whose leadership sided with the AKP in pushing through the constitutional changes, has 36 seats. The 21 candidates from which the seven were picked were all put forward by AK Party and MHP deputies in a parliamentary commission.
The remaining six council members are the justice minister and ministry undersecretary, along with four members chosen by the president himself. Under the old format, 16 members of the 22-member board were elected by members of the judiciary itself.
The first of the constitutional changes, allowing the president to be a member of a political party, went into effect this month when he rejoined the ruling AK Party. He is set to regain party leadership at an extraordinary congress on Sunday.
The remaining legal changes will be implemented after a parliamentary election, set for November 2019. Those reforms will enable the president to draft the budget, declare a state of emergency and issue decrees without parliamentary approval.