April 17, 2017 / 10:45 AM / 3 years ago

No plans for early elections after Turkey referendum, Deputy PM Simsek says

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has made it very clear that there are no plans to dissolve parliament and call for an early election before the 2019 vote, Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek speaks during an interview with Reuters in Ankara, Turkey, June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

A day after Turks narrowly voted to change the constitution and hand Erdogan sweeping new powers, Simsek said relations with the European Union would be on areas of common interest, adding that some of the “noise” between Ankara and Europe should die down after the European elections cycle.

Erdogan declared victory in the referendum on Sunday, after unofficial results showed 51.5 percent of voters had backed the constitutional changes to replace the parliamentary system with an all-powerful presidency and abolish the office of prime minister. The main opposition said the vote as marred by irregularities and they would challenge its result.

There has been some speculation that Erdogan could call a new election so that his new powers could take effect right away, but Simsek dismissed that.

“Yesterday the president made it very clear that elections will be held in November 2019,” Simsek told Reuters in the capital Ankara. “It is very clear. We have work to do.”

Analysts have said the government will now need to focus on harmonising laws and the legal system with the new executive presidency, an overhaul that could take the rest of the year.

Simsek and others in the ruling AKP have said that victory for the referendum would allow the government to quickly roll out investor-friendly structural reforms - such as to the labour market and the tax code - but investors have been sceptical, seeing the likelihood of more delays and policy gridlock.

“In economic terms this is huge ... you have got five years to execute your programme,” Simsek said. “Stability on its own is necessary but not sufficient. It has to be complemented with reforms.”

The lira firmed more than 1 percent, and was trading at 3.6680 at 0949 GMT, from 3.7220 on Friday’s close.


A big focus for investors will be Turkey’s relations with the European Union. In the run-up to the vote, Erdogan had floated the idea of reinstating the death penalty, saying it could be taken to a referendum if need be.

Turkey abandoned capital punishment more than a decade ago as part of its bid to join the European Union. Restoring it would all but end Ankara’s bid to join the EU.

Relations hit a low during the referendum campaign when EU countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, barred Turkish ministers from holding rallies in support of the changes.

Erdogan called the moves “Nazi acts” and said Turkey could reconsider ties with the European Union after many years of seeking EU membership.

Simsek, however, played down the strain in ties.

“Some of the noise will die down as Europe goes through its election cycle,” he said.

“The focus is what is in our common interest... upgrading the customs union is a low-hanging fruit that could double Turkey-EU trade,” he said, referring to the free-trade deal between Turkey and the bloc.

Additional reporting by Nevzat Devranoglu; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Daren Butler and Alison Williams

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