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In Rare Move, Turkish President Convenes Cabinet

  • VOA News

FILE - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan listens during a news conference in Riga, Oct. 23, 2014.

FILE - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan listens during a news conference in Riga, Oct. 23, 2014.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan convened a Cabinet meeting in a rare move Monday, raising concerns among critics of a power grab from what was once a largely ceremonial position.

Erdogan, who was prime minister for 11 years before his election in August, became the first president in more than a decade to chair a Cabinet session.

Current Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the president was acting within the powers granted by the constitution.

Erdogan insists that as the first president elected by the people and not by parliament, he has more power - without making constitutional changes to Turkey's parliamentary system.

A handout made available by the Presidential Palace Press Office on Jan. 19, 2015 shows Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Rear) presiding over the Cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara, Jan. 19, 2015.

A handout made available by the Presidential Palace Press Office on Jan. 19, 2015 shows Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Rear) presiding over the Cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara, Jan. 19, 2015.

Opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet said the closed-door meeting was a "rehearsal" for Erdogan to implement a presidential system.

Legislative elections are slated for June, and a strong showing by the president's Justice and Development Party (AKP) could lead to a new constitution officially boosting presidential power.

Critics of Erdogan challenge his record on human rights and press freedom. Opponents also point to an opulent presidential palace he opened last year, where the Cabinet meeting was held, as a symbol of presidential excess and overreach.

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