Erdogan defends constitutional reform says ‘president has to keep an eye on the public’

Turkey, Constitutional Reform, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Constitutional Referendum, Presidential System
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaking at a symposium in Istanbul, 11 February 2017, (c) AA

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday defended the constitutional reform proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which he founded, and the Nationalist Movement Party.

Speaking at a symposium in Istanbul, Erdogan said, “The essence of the presidential system is that the administration is given to the Turkish people, directly. That’s the truth. The president […] has to keep an eye on the public because he is responsible to the citizenry at his every step.”

The former prime minister and current president also said he was not fighting for himself but for the new system, state-run news agency AA reported.

“Whatever the people say will be, whatever Allah says will be,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.

The President also added that the issue was not a democracy or freedom issue but a change in the system that would bring about “the most appropriate solution for Turkey and the Turkish people’s longstanding problems that have been going on for centuries.”

The 18-article constitutional reform foresees wide-ranging executive powers being handed over to the president, the liquidation of the prime ministerial position and the right for the president to retain ties with a political party. The number of MPs in parliament will be raised for 550 to 600 and the age of election reduced to 18.

Critics say the changes will erode checks and balances, nullify parliament and afford the president sweeping powers in the legislative, executive and judicial spheres.

Government officials and Erdogan have countered these claims saying Turkey needs to overhaul its struggling system to fight against internal and external threats that are “trying to destabilise and divide the country.”