President Erdogan. Photo: AA.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Three days after the ruling party that backs him won Turkey’s snap general election, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday took the next step toward his goal of consolidating greater power.
In his first major speech since Sunday’s polls, Erdogan said that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu would consult opposition parties about rewriting the constitution, and if that failed the issue could go to a referendum.
Since becoming president in August last year Erdogan – with the backing of the ruling AKP -- has sought to turn Turkey from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential system, making him the most powerful president in Turkey’s history since the founder of the republic, Kemal Ataturk.
“It is obvious that the current system does not meet Turkey’s needs,” Davutoglu said in his victory speech, following early results late Sunday. “This shirt is too tight for this country.”
Erdogan suffered a setback in his plan for constitutional changes after the AKP or any other party won enough votes to form a government, and attempts to form a coalition failed.
In Sunday’s polls, the AKP won nearly 50 percent of the vote, giving it 317 seats in the 550 seat parliament, an increase from the 258 seats it won in the June 7 election.
Although it regained its parliamentary majority, AKP is still about 13 seats short of the 330 needed to push through a referendum on constitutional reform.
Erdogan spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters in Ankara on Wednesday that a decision on a presidential system for Turkey would include the people.
“If its mechanism is a referendum, then a referendum will be held,” he said, adding that his boss was not doing this to secure his own future.
The issue is not “a calculation related to the president’s own future” because “President Erdogan does not need such a thing,” Kalin said.
“My guess is that this discussion will gain momentum in the coming months and years and will continue in a more healthy way,” he added.
Sunday’s polls took place against the backdrop of Turkey’s war with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The Turkish government reignited a war with the militants after they claimed responsibility for the deaths of two army officers in late July. The fighting ended a 2013 ceasefire that was meant to resolve a three-decade conflict in which some 40,000 people have been killed.
The pro-Kurdish HDP party appeared to be the main loser from the government’s renewed war with the PKK. The HDP, which won 80 seats in June and vowed to thwart Erdogan’s ambitions for greater powers, only managed to secure 59 seats in Sunday’s polling.