ANKARA; On Monday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it might be time for Turkey to adopt a new constitution, fueling speculation that he might be seeking a way to extend his rule.
Since 2002, Erdogan, 66, has ruled Turkey as prime minister or president, cementing his control over the 83 million-strong nation and surviving a failed coup.
He pushed through amendments to the constitution as prime minister in 2017, which created an executive presidency and abolished the premiership.
The presidential election of 2018, the first of two potential five-year terms, he then won.
In 2023, Turkey is due to hold legislative and presidential elections, meaning that if he were re-elected, his reign will have to end by 2028.
But Erdogan introduced the possibility of writing a whole new constitution to replace the one that Turkey has been using since 1982, after chairing a four-hour cabinet meeting. It was drafted in reaction to a military coup.
“It is clear that the source of Turkey’s problems is that putschists have always written constitutions,” Erdogan said in remarks on national television.
It might be time to revisit the discussion on a new constitution for Turkey, he added. “We can take action in the future for a new constitution if we reach a common understanding with our (ruling coalition) partners.” Erdogan’s AK Party is aligned with the ultranationalist MHP in parliament.
Erdogan continued that “it would have to be done in a transparent manner to draught Turkey’s new constitution and the agreed text would have to be submitted to the will of the people.”
Erdogan has never lost an election, but after he unleashed a sweeping crackdown following a failed coup in 2016, his influence has waned.
Economic issues that critics blame on financial mismanagement have followed his arrest of political rivals and attack on civil liberties.
Since 2018, the Turkish lira has dropped dramatically, wiping out the savings of citizens and weakening his popularity among voters of the working class who form a part of Erdogan’s political base.
Erdogan’s comments were his “first admission that he may not win Turkey’s next elections held under the new executive-style presidential system,” Soner Cagaptay, Turkey programme director at the Washington Institute, said. “His likely next step: dividing his opposition along left-right lines through cultural wars,” Cagaptay said in a tweet.
“Turkey is a country dominated by the right wing (where Erdogan will be) trying to build a new majority.”