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Turkey Faces Referendum As Parliament Narrowly Backs Constitutional Changes

Turkey's parliament has narrowly approved a bill clearing the way for a referendum on government-proposed constitutional amendments.

Secularists staunchly oppose the proposed changes arguing that they will dilute the power of the judiciary and increase the grip of the ruling Islamist-rooted Justice and Development (AK) party on power.

The AK party says that the changes to the constitution, written under military rule in 1982, will strengthen democracy and boost Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

In the vote early today, the bill lacked the the two-thirds majority needed to become instantly law but secured enough votes to put the proposals to a referendum.

The main opposition party has said it would appeal to the Constitutional Court to block the referendum.

compiled from agency reports