19:38 GMT24 January 2021
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    Turkish police are dispersing a crowd of demonstrators protesting near the parliament building in Ankara against constitutional amendments to switch to a presidential system of governance, local media reported Monday.

    ANKARA (Sputnik) — The Turkish parliament is due to discuss the constitutional amendments later in the day. The draft bill was submitted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in December.

    Police have secured streets leading up to the parliament building and are dispersing groups of protesters attempting to approach the parliament, the Haberturk TV channel reported.

    The draft bill will need the approval of at least 330 members of parliament before it can be put to the popular vote in a national referendum. The AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) supporting the amendment currently have 355 seats in the parliament.

    According to the Turkish Minute news outlet, police had used teargas, rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse the crowd.

    The media outlet added that several lawmakers of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) had also been affected by the police activities.

    Earlier in the day, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said the referendum could take place in early April if the bill passes.

    The controversial bill seeks to give President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping powers in a move described as a power-grab by the opposition Republican People's Party and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party.

    Turkey's first constitution was adopted in 1921 under the influence of the first president of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who abolished the Sultanate and adopted principles of secularization and modernization. The constitution was modified in 1924, and later in 1961, before the current constitution was adopted in 1982.

    In its founding principles, the 1982 constitution asserts that Turkey is a secular, democratic republic. The constitution’s Article 4 bans any modifications to these founding principles.

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    constitutional amendments, controversy, demonstration, police, Nationalist Movement Party, Justice and Development Party (AKP), Turkey
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