Turkish presidential spokesman rules out early election

People wave Turkish flags during a Republic Day ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey, October 29, 2015. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s presidential spokesman said on Friday he could “confidently rule out” the possibility of an early election and said the country could hold separate referendums on a new constitution and the question of an executive presidency.

The ruling AK Party, founded by President Tayyip Erdogan more than a decade ago, has broad cross-party support for overhauling the constitution, which dates back to an era of military coups.

But there are wide divergences over what a new charter should look like and over strengthening the role of the presidency, as championed by Erdogan.

The AKP would need the support of 14 opposition members of parliament to put a new constitution to a referendum, and would require the backing of around 50 to change the constitution directly without the need for a popular vote.

That has raised speculation in some Turkish newspapers that a new election could be called to enable the AKP to boost its parliamentary majority.

“I can confidently rule that out. There won’t be any early elections for the new constitution,” Erdogan spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told a briefing with foreign media in Ankara.

He said the presidency would like to see a new constitution drafted by the current parliament but that ultimately it would need to go to a referendum.

“There might be two tracks, as the president proposed ... There could be one referendum for the new constitution with the presidential system .... (or) the presidential system can be taken to the people (in a) referendum separately,” he said.

Reporting by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Ece Toksabay/David Dolan