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Erdogan to be 'active' Turkish president: deputy PM

AFP , Friday 25 Jul 2014
File Photo: Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc addresses the media in Ankara May 31, 2010 (Photo: Reuters)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be an "active" head of state if he wins presidential elections in August and will play a particularly strong role in foreign policy, one of his government's most senior ministers said.

In an interview with Agence France-Presse, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc signalled that Erdogan would be a stronger president than previous holders of the hitherto ceremonial post but insisted he would always act within the framework of the law.

Arinc said Turkey's ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) wanted to change Turkey's constitution to potentially enshrine the presidency with more powers, describing the current version as a "no longer valid" relic of a military coup.

Erdogan is the hot favourite to win the August 10 elections, the first time a Turkish president will be elected by popular vote, and continue his over-decade-long domination of Turkey which has already transformed the country.

Describing Erdogan as a "charismatic and successful" leader, Arinc said there was a "big chance" that he would be elected head of state.

"The election of Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- a strong figure, especially in foreign policy -- could have a very big meaning for Turkey and especially for our region," said Arinc, who along with Erdogan and outgoing President Abdullah Gul was one of the founders of the AKP in 2001.

Previous Turkish presidents, including Gul, have performed largely ceremonial functions but Arinc indicated Erdogan would be a different kind of head of state.

"If Mr Prime Minister becomes president... he will certainly be an active president. This is his nature," said Arinc.

"His relations with the government will be even stronger. And he will be even more active in foreign policy," said Arinc, insisting that: "It is out of the question that any powers will be used except those allowed by the constitution."

The presence of a "powerful" president could also have an affect on the crises boiling across Turkey's region in Syria, Iraq and the Middle East, as well as the Cyprus problem, he added.

The AKP has for several years -- so far unsuccessfully -- tried to amend Turkey's current constitution, which Arinc described as the unwelcome inheritance of a military coup that ousted the government in 1980.

But he vowed that the party would make a new attempt after 2015 legislative elections, if voters give it a big enough majority in parliament to change the basic law and open the way to creating a presidential system.

"This constitution is no longer valid. Turkey needs a civilian, democratic and modern constitution. That is to say, Turkey needs a new constitution, " said Arinc.

Should the AKP win a sufficient majority in the elections, "Turkey may head towards a change of system" to give the presidency greater powers, he said.

"In this new constitution, a new system of administration could be adopted within democratic norms, like the one in France or the United States" which both have strong presidential systems, he added.

The AKP has moved since it first came to power in 2002 to transform Turkey's infrastructure, reduce the influence of the military and project Turkish power on the international stage.

But the opposition now accuses the party and Erdogan in particular of being intolerant of criticism and the demands of secular metropolitan Turks -- tensions which boiled up during the deadly protests of 2013 that rocked his rule.

Arinc said that the AKP had full legitimacy after winning a total of eight elections, including two referendums, since coming to power and insisted it worked for the full country and not just its core block of conservative voters.

"This is a groundless fear," he said.

"We have not excluded any sections of society who did not vote for the AK Party. We brought service to them, we also represented them, we made big reforms also for them," he said.

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© 2010 Ahram Online.