Turkey's Erdogan has eye on new, strong president's role

Tue Nov 6, 2012 3:36pm GMT

By Pinar Aydinli

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan took a step towards extending his powers on Tuesday after his ruling AK Party presented a proposal to parliament for setting up a presidential system.

Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics since the party came to power in 2002, is widely viewed as wanting to consolidate his position by becoming the head of state in a presidential election in 2014.

The plan drew criticism from the opposition, however, with one politician saying it could lead Turkey into a "dark dictatorship".

Under the current system, the president is a largely ceremonial figure. The AK Party aims to create an executive presidency within the framework of a new constitution which the government says will advance Turkey's democratisation.

Erdogan's plans will be challenged by other parties in parliament who fear such a reform will hand him too much power. However, the AK Party has a large majority in parliament which leaves it strongly positioned to push through reform.

"We presented a measure to the parliamentary speaker's office. Within that there is an AK Party proposal on the formation of a presidential system," Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag, a leading advocate of the reform, said.

"We think it is right to move Turkey to a presidential system which can establish strong leadership and create stability rather than disputes in the years ahead," he said.

The move coincided with an announcement from Erdogan that local elections would go ahead in March 2014 as scheduled. He abandoned an attempt to bring the vote forward by five months after failing to win enough parliamentary support for the plan.   Continued...

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from the ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara February 28, 2012. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
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