ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday the strong executive presidency he seeks would bear no resemblance to Asian or African dictatorships but would be “like a bee... taking something from every flower” to create a uniquely Turkish honey.
Erdogan, accused by critics of undermining curbs to his power such as the judiciary, said systems of checks and balances would be more effective under a full executive presidency. But he gave no details of what form those checks might take.
By far NATO member Turkey’s most popular political leader, he served as prime minister from 2003 until becoming the first directly elected President last year. Previous presidents played a largely ceremonial role, but Erdogan has broken with that tradition, retaining a tight grip on day-to-day politics.
However, he seeks to change the constitution to strengthen presidential powers - something opponents say would foster what they already see as increasingly autocratic rule.
Erdogan, speaking at a symposium in Ankara, clearly addressed his words to critics who accuse him of intolerance and even sympathizers who still fear a new constitutional order could erode democratic freedoms already questioned.
“This (presidential) system will not bear any resemblance to dictatorships under the same name in Africa and Asia,” he said.
“(It) will be unique to Turkey, it will be like a bee making honey, taking something from every flower and giving us a taste of a truly different honey.”
The ruling AK Party, which he co-founded, has placed the issue at the heart of its manifesto for parliamentary polls, due on June 7.
Erdogan said the popular mandate he won when elected president last year with 52 percent of the vote showed the climate in Turkey was suited to a shift away from the current parliamentary system.
The AKP is on course to remain the largest party after the June parliamentary elections. Polls suggest, however, that concerns over the proposed presidential system could see the AKP fall short of the heavy majority it would need to change the constitution without needing either a referendum or the support of other parties.
Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu, writing by Jonny Hogg, Editing by Ece Toksabay and Ralph Boulton