Turkey: Erdogan in favor of a new constitution

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that he was in favor of a new Constitution, causing surprise after two years of elections that are shaping up to be complicated for him.

“It is clear that at the source of Turkey’s problems lie the constitutions written by putschists since the 1960s (…) It may be time for Turkey to reopen the debate on a new Constitution”, Mr Erdogan said.

“We could take measures in this direction if we found an agreement” with the ultranationalist party MHP, its ally, added Mr. Erdogan during a press conference after a Council of Ministers in Ankara.

Any draft Constitution would be submitted to a referendum, he said.

Mr. Erdogan already carried out in 2017 a profound revision of the current Constitution, which dates from 1982 and was drafted in the wake of a military coup.

Under the terms of this constitutional overhaul validated by referendum, Turkey notably went from a parliamentary system to a presidential system having considerably extended the powers of the Head of State.

The latest statements by the Turkish president come at a time when many analysts and opponents believe he intends to rush the next presidential and legislative elections scheduled for 2023, which he denies.

Organizing a constitutional referendum could allow Mr. Erdogan to rally his troops. While he remains his country’s most popular politician, he has seen his popularity wane in recent years due to growing economic difficulties.

In the presidential and legislative elections held in 2018, Erdogan was comfortably re-elected, but his party, the AKP, was unable to win the absolute majority that would have allowed him to govern alone.

The head of state is currently ruling Turkey in an informal coalition with MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, once one of his fiercest rivals.

A sign of the dangers that await him, Mr. Erdogan suffered in 2019 a spectacular electoral setback in the municipal elections by losing Istanbul and Ankara, cities that the Islamo-conservatives had controlled for a quarter of a century.

The 66-year-old Erdogan has been in power since 2003, first as prime minister and then, since 2014, as president.

In theory, the current Constitution allows him to remain head of state until 2028.

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