Turkey seeks constitutional change

Turkey’s government will press ahead on Thursday with a controversial attempt to change the constitution to allow a directly elected president.

The proposals follow the government’s failure to get Abdullah Gul, the foreign minister, appointed to the post. His candidacy led to Turkey’s worst political crisis in a decade after the military threatened to intervene because of his past links to Turkey’s Islamist movement.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister, rejected criticism from Tusiad, Turkey’s big-business lobby, that the amendment needed wider discussion. Tusiad said: “This package, which proposes important changes in the parliamentary system, needs to be discussed by society at large.”

Mr Erdogan said: “Parliament knows better than them” how to do its job.

The exchange reflects the polarisation of political debate ahead of a general election on July 22 that was called to try to end the crisis. It is also a sign of the government’s determination to score a victory after failing to get Mr Gul appointed. That defeat was its most serious setback since coming to power in late 2002.

Even if parliament approves the package it seems certain to be vetoed by Ahmet Necdet Sezer, the outgoing president. If the measures are not in place by the election, it is likely the new president will be chosen by the new parliament.

The first opinion poll since the crisis began on April 27 was released on Wednesday. It showed Mr Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development party with a 29 per cent share of the vote. Four other parties also had enough support to ensure parliamentary representation.

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