Turkish president approves constitutional change bill

ANKARA -President Recep Tayyip Erdogan approved Friday a bill which sets the date for a referendum on widespread changes to the country's constitution.

The bill will be sent to the Prime Ministry to be published in the country's Official Gazette, setting the date for a vote.

A referendum is expected to be held April 16, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said Thursday.

Citing a well-known saying of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus later said: "I hope 'sovereignty [will] rest unconditionally with the nation' on April 16 when the referendum will be held."

Kurtulmus said the Turkish people, including those who will vote Yes or No, would express their opinion in the referendum.

"I hope that this election campaign will continue in line with the mature democracy of Turkey," he said.

Constitutional reform has been discussed since Erdogan was voted in as president in August 2014.

The 18-article bill was passed by parliament in January, with 339 votes in favor -- nine more than needed to put the proposals to a referendum.

The post of prime minister would be abolished and the president allowed to retain ties to a political party.

The minimum age for parliamentary candidates would be reduced to 18 and the number of lawmakers will rise to 600.

Simultaneous parliamentary and presidential elections for a five-year term would be held in November 2019.

Source: Anadolu Agency