ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey could hold a referendum on constitutional changes for a new political system, reviving a highly contentious push to increase the powers of the president, an aide to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday
The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, which Erdogan founded and continues to lead from behind the scenes, scored a stunning victory in a parliamentary election Sunday, gaining back the majority it lost in a previous election just five months ago. The surprise win marked a turnaround for Erdogan, allowing him to move ahead with plans to consolidate his grip on Turkish politics.
The president has limited constitutional powers and Erdogan has long been pushing for constitutional changes that would give him the ability to govern. The prospect has irked opponents who are already troubled by his ever-increasing authoritarian tendencies and often-polarizing rhetoric.
Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters that Erdogan believes a presidential system giving the head of state sweeping powers would make Turkey "jump up a league."
"What is the best model for us? Taking into consideration the results of the Nov. 1 election, this is something that will be settled by asking the people," Kalin said.
"This debate cannot be considered independently from the people. If the mechanism is a referendum then a referendum can take place," Kalin added.
The party, however, is still 13 seats short of the 330 required to call a referendum on any constitutional change. Kalin did not say how those limitations can be overcome and it was not clear if the AKP would seek the support of other parties represented in parliament.
In a speech to local administrators on Wednesday, Erdogan called on all parties represented in Parliament to contribute to the writing of a new constitution for Turkey, but did not make a direct reference to the presidential system he wants.
He said Turkey will keep up its fight against the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, until the rebel group is "eliminated." Renewed fighting between the rebels and Turkey's security forces has derailed a fragile peace process and killed hundreds of people since July.
"The period ahead is not for talks or discussions. I say this clear: it is a period for getting results," he said.