October 12, 2016 / 10:46 AM / a year ago

Turkey to revive plans to strengthen Erdogan's office, PM says

ANKARA (Reuters) - The Turkish government will soon restart efforts to change the constitution and expand presidential powers, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Wednesday, reviving the controversial plan after an opposition leader signalled his support.

Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

President Tayyip Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey since 2003, has pushed for a new constitution with an executive presidency at its centre that places him firmly in charge. Some opinion polls in the past have shown a majority oppose the change.

However, Erdogan has consolidated both his power and popularity since an abortive coup failed to oust him on July 15. Some 240 government loyalists and 100 rogue troops were killed in the spasm of violence.

A state of emergency imposed in July to root out plotters from the security and civil services has allowed the government to rule by decree.

“Turkey must give the de facto situation a legal status,” Yildirim, a loyalist whom Erdogan appointed to the job in May, told members of the ruling AK Party in comments aired live.

The system will help state institutions work more harmoniously and ensure political stability is lasting, he said.

Turkey’s most popular leader in 80 years, Erdogan was elected to the top post in 2014 after serving three times as prime minister. The current charter describes the office as largely ceremonial.

“We will at once take steps in this direction and will let either parliament or the people decide,” Yildirim said, vowing to work closely with Erdogan to draft the change.

Any constitutional change requires the support of at least 367 deputies in the 550-seat assembly to pass directly. Yildirim’s ruling AKP has 317 seats. The reform would go to a referendum if its gets support of 330 lawmakers.

Devlet Bahceli, whose Nationalist Movement Party has 40 seats, on Tuesday broke with past rhetoric slamming an executive presidency to tell his party he would not oppose the plan now because it would “strengthen the current system”.

Yildirim described Bahceli’s remarks as inspiring hope and said he accepted his call to bring a constitutional amendment on the presidency to parliament quickly.

“Bahceli has seen that removing the system’s blockage is a necessity and his statements pave the way, which is heartening.”

Parliament’s second- and third-biggest parties, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), both oppose ending Turkey’s parliamentary system.

Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley and Ercan Gurses; Editing by Daren Butler and Catherine Evans

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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