April 16, 2015 / 8:34 AM / 3 years ago

Ex-leader Gul says Turkey needs stronger parliament, not presidency

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey needs a better parliamentary system, not a more powerful presidency, former President Abdullah Gul said, in clear disagreement with his successor’s drive to change the constitution and give the head of state executive powers.

Abdullah Gul speaks during a news conference in Tbilisi May 7, 2014. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili

Gul, who spoke to investors at a Financial Times summit late on Wednesday, predicted his ruling AK Party could cede some votes to opposition parties in coming June polls, but would still be able to form a government by itself.

President Tayyip Erdogan has called for a constitutional change to create a U.S.-style executive presidency. Critics say that would allow the authoritarian Erdogan, who has dominated public life for more than a decade, to accumulate greater power.

“I have always said the parliamentary system should be enhanced, it should be perfected,” said Gul, who co-founded the AK Party with Erdogan.

“Checks and balances should be written down very carefully as it is in the case with developed countries,” he added, in an apparent reference to concern about Erdogan’s growing authority.

While Gul no longer holds office, he is still seen as an influential figure within the AKP, which is facing a parliamentary election on June 7.

Erdogan wants a sweeping victory that would secure enough seats to push through the constitutional change. A new constitution was at the heart of the party’s election manifesto, announced on Wednesday.

Recent polls suggest the AKP’s share of the vote will drop by between 1 and 8 percentage points from the 49.8 percent it garnered in 2011, potentially to a level that could force it to seek coalition partners.

But Gul said he doubted such a scenario would be likely.

“I am guessing the opposition parties will gain more power, but I also think single party government will continue.”

Reporting by David Dolan; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Crispian Balmer

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