Defiant Erdogan vows to press for new Turkey constitution

tayyip erdoganTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday defiantly vowed to renew his drive for a new presidency-based constitution, as Turkey heads to snap elections after the collapse of coalition talks.

The results of the June 7 poll — where Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its overall majority for the first time since coming to power in 2002 — were widely seen as one of the worst blows of his political career.

Erdogan, premier from 2003-2014 and president since last August, had wanted the parliament to agree a new constitution that would enshrine the president as the country’s most powerful figure.

But after coalition talks between the AKP and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) collapsed on Thursday, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said snap polls were now the “only option”.

This will give Erdogan a second crack of realising his dream — a scenario some analysts said he had wished for all along.

“Whether you agree or not, Turkey’s regime has changed,” said Erdogan in a speech in his ancestral region of Rize on the Black Sea, referring to the fact he was Turkey’s first president to be chosen by popular vote.

“What needs to be done now is to give a legal framework to this de-facto state with a new constitution,” he added.

Since coming to power, Erdogan departed from the tradition that Turkey’s president should be an impartial arbiter, drawing cries of rage from the opposition who accuse him of violating the constitution.

“I’m sorry, but I won’t be the kind of president that they want,” Erdogan said, adding he was on the “people’s side”.

“They call on me to be impartial, but I made it clear that I won’t be impartial,” he said, describing the AKP as a “symbol of honesty”.

Early elections are now seen as almost certain after the collapse of the AKP-CHP talks, with some analysts predicting November 22 as a possible date.

However it is far from certain that the AKP will improve on its vote share of just under 41 percent and win an overall majority, with all parties bracing for a tough campaign.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), whose strong performance in June was largely responsibly for thwarting Erdogan’s ambitions, has pledged in a viral Twitter hashtag #SeniYineBaskanYaptirmayacagiz — “Once again we won’t let you be president”.

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