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AKP attempts constitutional change to enhance Erdogan's powers

The ruling Justice and Development Party is seeking a change to the constitution to boost President Erdogan's power base
Erdogan listens to a speech during the closing ceremony of the World Humanitarian Summit on May 24, 2016 in Istanbul. (AFP)

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is seeking a quick revision to the constitution that would allow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to renew his party political activity, sources said on Friday.

Erdogan, one of the founders of the Islamic-rooted AKP, had to cut his ties with the party and step down as its leader when he became president in August 2014 to obey constitutional rules that the president should be politically neutral.

But the AKP is now seeking a "mini-revision" to the constitution that would allow Erdogan to become a "party-affiliated president", an AKP source told AFP.

The bill would be submitted to the parliament in June, the source added.

The move for the so-called "mini-revision" - already flagged in the Turkish press - comes as Erdogan also seeks to rally support for a whole new constitution which would enshrine the president's status as a powerful head of state.

But mathematics are currently against the AKP with the party lacking the "super majority" required to call a referendum on changing the entire constitution and writing a new one.

For the mini-revision, the AKP hopes to win the support of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) which could support the smaller change but is opposed to a presidential system.

Analysts say that Erdogan, who served as premier from 2003-2014 and has transformed Turkey over the last one-and-a-half decades, is seeking to consolidate his powers to ensure there is no challenge to his rule.

Last week, his loyal ally Binali Yildirim became prime minister following the shock resignation of Ahmet Davutoglu who had feuded with the president on several issues.

Parliament also voted to remove immunity from MPs with outstanding prosecution files against them, a move seen to mainly target the left-wing and pro-Kurdish HDP party. Fifty of its 59 MPs could be expelled from parliament if they are prosecuted under the change, which would potentially give the AKP the majority it needs to change the constitution.

The opposition, which has accused Erdogan of ruling like a dictator, said it was staunchly opposed to Erdogan renewing his links with his party.

"We are opposed to a presidentialisation of the system. The country cannot be sacrificed to the ambitions of one man," said Levent Gok of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).