ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkey’s President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on Thursday vetoed constitutional changes aimed at letting ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Tayyip Erdogan enter parliament and become prime minister.
Erdogan–whose party won a landslide victory in a general election last month–is banned from parliament due to a 1999 conviction for Islamist sedition.
The veto could prove a major blow to political stability in the NATO member and EU candidate–where markets are already on edge over a possible US-led attack against neighboring Iraq.
The constitutional changes would have let Erdogan stand in by-elections early next year and then become prime minister. But Sezer said on his website that the constitution could not be altered to benefit one single person.
Parliament–which passed the changes during Turkey’s efforts to meet EU membership criteria–must now decide whether to vote on the laws again.
The Turkish president does not have the authority to veto the laws a second time–but their passage through the assembly a second time could spark tensions between the AKP and Turkey’s staunchly secular military.
On December 13–parliament also approved new rules for by-elections to allow Erdogan to run for parliament from the province of Siirt–probably in February.
Electoral officials earlier this month canceled ballot results there because of voting irregularities.