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Erdogan urges referendum on presidential system plan

AFP , Thursday 28 Jan 2016
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a meeting on the "New Constitution" at the Congresium in Ankara on January 28, 2016 (AFP)
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President Recep Erdogan on Thursday called for the Turkish people to vote in a referendum to strengthen his power in a presidential system, saying it was out of the question to take a step backward on the issue.

Erdogan, the strongman of Turkish politics for more than a decade, has long been seeking a new constitution to transform his post into a powerful US-style executive "super-presidency," which he says will provide more effective governance.

But it was the first time he made it clear he wanted to call a referendum in any eventuality.

"If the presidential system will be a good choice for Turkey's future, then it should be adopted without any dispute," he told civil society groups in Ankara.

"It's out of question for Turkey to take a step back in this issue: People will not allow this to happen," he said.

"The parliament should make a decision but afterwards people should be consulted. The final decision should be made by the people, not by lawmakers."

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) does not currently command the two-thirds or three-fifths majority in parliament needed to change the constitution or call a referendum on the issue, respectively.

Erdogan's comments indicates he ultimately wants a referendum but he did not give any details on the timing.

Erdogan, who critics say has become more autocratic after winning Turkey's first direct presidential election in August 2014, said he wanted the changes not for "himself" but the stability of his country.

Turkey's current parliamentary system in which both the prime minister and president are elected by popular vote "has outlived itself," Erdogan said.

"It's an anomaly," he added.

"But I want to correct this misunderstanding: a presidential system is not a personal matter for Tayyip Erdogan."

A parliamentary committee is expected to begin meetings next week on a new civilian constitution that would replace the 1980 charter drafted by the military after a coup.

Opposition parties agree that a change is long overdue, but fear that a presidential system would consolidate too much power in the hands of one man.

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