President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that it may be time for Turkey to adopt a new constitution, feeding speculation that he could seek a way to extend his rule.
Erdogan, 66, has governed Turkey as prime minister or president since 2002, cementing his control over the nation of 83 million people and surviving a failed coup.
He pushed through changes to the constitution in 2017 that created an executive presidency and abolished the premiership.
He then won the 2018 presidential election, the first of two potential five-year terms under the revised rules.
Turkey is scheduled to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in June 2023, meaning that Erdogan’s rule would have to end by 2028 if he were re-elected.
But after chairing a four-hour cabinet meeting, the president raised the idea of writing a brand new constitution to replace one that Turkey has been using since 1982. It was drafted following a military coup.
“It is clear that the source of Turkey’s problems is that constitutions have always been written by putschists,” Erdogan said in nationally televised remarks.
“It may be time for Turkey to reopen the debate about a new constitution,” he said. “If we reach a common understanding with our (ruling coalition) partners, we may take action for a new constitution in the future.”
That new Turkish constitution in full (probably):
✔️ Presidency elected by a simple majority – no more need for 50%
✔️ No term limits for the Presidency
✔️ A bunch of other stuff that doesn’t matter but which probably sounds good if you don’t look too hard
— Can Okar (@canokar) February 1, 2021
Erdogan’s AK Party is allied in parliament with ultranationalist MHP.
Erdogan added that the drafting of the new constitution “would have to be done in a transparent manner and the agreed upon text would have to be submitted to the will of the people”.
Erdogan has never lost an election, but his popularity has been waning since he unleashed a sweeping crackdown after the failed coup in 2016.
His jailing of political opponents and assault on civil liberties have been accompanied by economic problems that analysts blame on financial mismanagement.
The Turkish lira has fallen sharply since 2018, wiping out people’s savings and undermining his support among working class voters who form a part of Erdogan’s political base.
Turkey’s political opposition has been pushing Erdogan to call a snap election, arguing that he has lost the public’s trust.
Soner Cagaptay, Turkey programme director at the Washington Institute, said Erdogan’s comments were his “first admission that he may not win Turkey’s next elections held under the new executive-style presidential system”.
“His likely next step: divide his opposition through culture wars along left-right lines,” Cagaptay said in a tweet.
“Turkey is a right-wing dominated country (where Erdogan will) try to build a new majority.”
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk