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Turkey may hold referendum to strengthen presidential powers


Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Ankara — Turkey is considering holding a referendum on plans to expand the powers of presidency into a US-style executive role, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said on Wednesday.
“This is an issue that can be finalized after consulting with the people… If the mechanism to do this is a referendum, then one will be held,” Ibrahim Kalin told reporters in Ankara.
His comments come just days after Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a surprise victory in Sunday’s election and enough seats to return to single-party rule.
“We have a clear opinion that the presidential system will help Turkey jump to another league,” he added.
Such a system would enshrine the head of state as the country’s number one, raising concerns at home and abroad about the risk of having so much power in the hands of one man.
It is no secret that Erdogan, who critics say is becoming ever more autocratic, is seeking to change the constitution to switch from a parliamentary to presidential system. The AKP won half the votes on Sunday to take 317 seats in the 550-member parliament on Sunday — still short of the 330 needed to change the constitution.
Kalin insisted the planned changes were not just for the benefit of Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics since becoming premier in 2003.
“He is already a strong leader constitutionally and has already passed into history. He has no personal expectations,” he said.
“The debates on presidential system are not out of concern over his future. It is being considered as a useful model for Turkey.”
Erdogan, 61, has vowed to be an active president and already stretched the powers of the once-ceremonial presidency since winning the post in August last year in the first ever popular vote.
He argues that this would be little different from the system in democracies such as France and Brazil and that changing the current constitution, born out of a 1980 military coup, is long overdue. — AFP
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