January 30, 2013 / 4:02 PM / 7 years ago

Erdogan says can seek referendum on Turkey constitution if no deal

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday he will take proposed constitutional reforms, expected to include the creation of an executive presidency, directly to parliament and if necessary to the people if no deal can be reached by April.

A cross-party parliamentary commission drafting a new constitution had been expected to finish its work by the start of this year but has failed to reach a consensus.

Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics since his AK Party first came to power in 2002, is widely viewed as wanting to change the charter to establish an executive presidency for himself in time for elections due next year.

Erdogan said the AK Party would take its proposals for an amended constitution directly to parliament if no agreement had been reached by the end of March.

“We are hoping that this matter will be finalised by the end of March ... If it is not completed, the AK Party will bring its work on this to parliament’s agenda,” he told a meeting of his ruling party deputies in parliament.

Approval of constitutional amendments require two-thirds support in the 550-seat assembly, or 367 votes, which the AK Party, which controls 326 seats, may struggle to achieve.

It would need only 60 percent, or 330 votes, for the bill to be put to a referendum, however.

“When we have the power to hold a referendum, we will go to the nation,” Erdogan said.

Politicians from all Turkey’s main parties agree Turkey’s current constitution, drawn up after a 1980 coup, needs to be revised. But the opposition fears the reforms the AK Party wants will hand Erdogan too much power.

The clock is ticking. Local elections are due in March 2014, followed by a presidential vote a few months later and a parliamentary election in 2015.

In a long-awaited cabinet reshuffle ahead of that election cycle, Erdogan replaced his interior, tourism, health, and education ministers with close allies last week.

Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Sonya Hepinstall

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