The 1961 constitution vested legislative power in the Grand National Assembly, consisting of the House of Representatives, with a membership of 450 (elected for four-year terms), and the Senate of 165 members, of whom 150 were elected and 15 appointed by the president. The president of the republic—the head of state—was elected for a single seven-year term by a joint session of the National Assembly. The president was empowered to designate the prime minister from among the Assembly members; the prime minister in turn chose other cabinet ministers, who were responsible for general government policy.
The constitution ratified in November 1982, which replaced the 1961 document, declares Turkey to be a democratic and secular republic that respects the human rights of its citizens and remains loyal to the nationalistic principles of Atatürk. It vests executive powers in the president of the republic and the Council of Ministers. The president is elected by the National Assembly for a seven-year term. Legislative functions are delegated to the unicameral National Assembly, consisting originally of 400 members elected for five-year terms (the Senate was abolished). Under the constitution's "temporary articles," the five-person National Security Council (NSC) remained in power until the new parliament convened, at which time the NSC became a presidential council, to function for a period of six years before dissolving. These "temporary" provisions expressly forbade all former leaders of either the Justice or the Republican People's Party from participating in politics for 10 years; all former members of the previous parliament were forbidden to found political parties or to hold public office for five years. A referendum in September 1987 approved a proposal to lift the 10-year ban on political participation by leaders of the Justice and Republican People's Parties and numerous other politicians. Proposals to change the voting age from 21 to 20 years and expand the National Assembly from 400 to 450 members were approved in May 1987. By 2003, there were 550 seats in the National Assembly and the voting age had been lowered to 18.
Although the constitution guarantees individual freedoms, exceptions may be made in order to protect the republic and the public interest, or in times of war or other national emergency. The provision holding that an arrested person cannot be held for more than 48 hours without a court order may likewise be suspended in the case of martial law, war, or other emergency.