Erdoğan to be 'active' Turkish president: Deputy PM
ANKARA - Agence France-Presse
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc speaks to the press ahead of the presidential elections in Ankara on July 24, 2014. AFP PhotoPrime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be an "active" head of state if he wins the presidential election in August and will play a particularly strong role in foreign policy, one of his government's most senior ministers has said.
In an interview with Agence France-Presse, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç signaled that Erdoğan would be a stronger president than previous holders of the hitherto ceremonial post, but insisted he would always act within the framework of the law.
Arınç said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) wanted to change Turkey's Constitution to potentially enshrine the presidency with more powers, describing the current version as a "no longer valid" relic of a military coup.
Erdoğan is the hot favorite to win the Aug. 10 elections, the first time a Turkish president will be elected by popular vote.
Describing Erdoğan as a "charismatic and successful" leader, Arınç said there was a "big chance" that he would be elected head of state.
"The election of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan - a strong figure, especially in foreign policy - could have a very big meaning for Turkey and especially for our region," said Arınç, who along with Erdoğan and outgoing President Abdullah Gül was one of the founders of the AKP in 2001.
Previous Turkish presidents, including Gul, have performed largely ceremonial functions, but Arınç indicated that Erdoğan would be a different kind of head of state if elected.
"If the prime minister becomes president ... he will certainly be an active president. This is his nature," he said.
"His relations with the government will be even stronger. And he will be even more active in foreign policy. But it is out of the question that any powers will be used except those allowed by the Constitution," Arınç added.
The presence of a "powerful" president could also have an affect on the crises boiling across Turkey's region in Syria, Iraq and the Middle East, as well as the Cyprus problem, he added.
The AKP has for several years tried to amend Turkey's current Constitution, which Arınç described as the unwelcome inheritance of a military coup that ousted the government in 1980.
But he vowed that the party would make a new attempt after 2015 legislative elections, if voters give it a big enough majority in Parliament to change the basic law and open the way to creating a presidential system.
"This Constitution is no longer valid. Turkey needs a civilian, democratic and modern Constitution. Turkey needs a new Constitution, " Arınç said.
Should the AKP win a sufficient majority in the presidential elections next year, "Turkey may head toward a change of system" to give the presidency greater powers, he added.
"In this new Constitution, a new system of administration could be adopted within democratic norms, like the one in France or the United States" that both have strong presidential systems, the deputy prime minister said.
The AKP has moved since it first came to power in 2002 to transform Turkey's infrastructure, reduce the influence of the military and project Turkish power on the international stage. But the opposition now accuses the party and Erdoğan in particular of being intolerant of criticism and the demands of secular metropolitan Turks - tensions that boiled up during the deadly protests of 2013 that rocked his rule.
Arınç said the AKP had full legitimacy after winning a total of eight elections, including two referendums, since coming to power and insisted it worked for the full country and not just its core block of conservative voters.
"We have not excluded any sections of society who did not vote for the AK Party. We brought service to them, we also represented them, we made big reforms also for them," he said.