, ANKARA, May 6 – The Turkish government Thursday won parliament\’s support for a proposal to overhaul the body that appoints judges, a key article in a fiercely disputed constitutional amendment package.
The article garnered 334 votes in the 550-seat parliament, just more than the 330 required for its approval, parliament speaker Mehmet Ali Sahin said.
The proposal changes the composition of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, which appoints judges and prosecutors and also deals with disciplinary measures.
The change increases the board\’s members from seven to 21 and gives the president and the country\’s top courts the power to elect them.
The board has often clashed with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the moderate offshoot of a banned Islamist movement.
The opposition charges that the constitutional amendments aim to put the judiciary — dominated by staunch secularists opposed to the government — under the AKP\’s control, allowing it to advance its alleged plan to introduce religious rule in Turkey.
The government rejects the charges and counters that its proposed changes to the constitution, written under military rule in 1982, will improve democratic standards and boost Ankara\’s bid to join the European Union.
Another key article in the package that was approved by the parliament Tuesday expanded the constitutional court, increasing the number of judges from 11 to 17 and giving parliament the power to elect some of them.
However, lawmakers voted down another proposal that would have made it harder to ban political parties, leading to the article being scrapped from the package.
Parliament is expected to hold a final decisive vote on the entire package later Thursday or Friday.
A first-round vote last week suggested the draft is destined for a referendum as all the articles garnered between 330 and 340 votes, falling short of the 367 votes required for an outright adoption.
The AKP has 335 seats, excluding the parliament speaker who cannot vote.