ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's president sent back to parliament on Tuesday a constitutional amendment bringing local elections forward by five months, frustrating a move to give Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan more time to prepare for an expected presidential bid.
The polls to elect local mayors and municipality chiefs were originally scheduled for March 2014, ahead of a presidential vote a few months later and parliamentary elections in 2015.
The constitutional amendment that was approved late in the Friday by parliament changed the date for the local elections to October 27, 2013 - in what was widely seen as a move to give Erdogan a longer run-up to the presidential contest.
The amendment would have been put to a referendum in the next 60 days - as it was not passed by a large enough parliamentary majority to go straight into law.
But Turkey's current President Abdullah Gul told parliament on Tuesday to hold a second debate on the change, saying a referendum would have been too expensive, and not enough people would turn out to take part in the plebiscite during the winter.
It is an open secret that Erdogan wants to bid for a newly constituted executive presidency that will replace the current largely ceremonial post.
Gul and Erdogan could be rivals in a presidential election race, but it was not clear whether Gul had sent the bill back to parliament to disrupt Erdogan's election plans.
Having overseen a decade of unprecedented prosperity in Turkey, Erdogan is highly popular with the country's new conservative-minded middle class.
But a poll published last month said more Turks would prefer to see Gul serve a second term than have Erdogan as their president.
Erdogan's opponents fear the replacement of the current parliamentary system, the probable outcome of a constitutional review now in progress, would allot too much power to a man they already view with suspicion for his authoritarianism.
(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Andrew Heavens)