1 Oct 2013

Political reforms announced in Turkey

1:32 pm on 1 October 2013

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has announced major political reforms, including new Kurdish rights and a reversal of the headscarf ban.

He has proposed lowering an electoral threshold, which currently prevents Kurdish and other smaller parties from entering parliament. Kurds are thought to make up about 20% of the population.

Towns will be able to use their Kurdish rather than Turkish names, and education in Kurdish will be broadened.

The BBC reports the ending of the ban on women wearing headscarves in public service has been a longstanding goal of the AK Party. The ban is one of the most contentious laws in Turkey.

Mr Erdogan and his party have been accused of rolling back the secular state and trying to promote Islamic values.

The headscarf ban will be removed for public servants, but remains for judges, prosecutors, police officers and members of the armed forces.

"This is a historic moment, an important stage," Mr Erdogan said.

Mr Erdogan said the law under which only parties which win 10% of the national vote can take up parliamentary seats, could be replaced by a 5% threshold, or even abolished completely.

The BBC reports the law has in the past prevented the main Kurdish party, Peace and Democracy, from campaigning for parliament - though its members have often run as independents.

Parties would only have to win 3% to qualify for public funding - as opposed to 7% currently.

Mr Erdogan also said teaching in Kurdish - and other non-Turkish languages - will be allowed in private schools; though it is still restricted in state schools.