ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday laid out his vision for Turkey in the next century, promising a new constitution that would guarantee the rights and freedoms of citizens.
Erdogan said, however, that in the meantime his government would propose constitutional amendments that would safeguard the rights of women wanting to wear Islamic-style headscarves but also protect family values from what he called the “threat of perverted currents.” It was a reference to planned amendments that could curb LGBTQ rights and discourage same-sex relationships.
Erdogan’s speech outlined plans for Turkey with one year to go for celebrations marking the centenary of the establishment of the republic following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. His speech was also seen as a campaign manifesto as the country heads toward parliamentary and presidential elections in June.
The autocratic politician who has led Turkey for the past two decades — first as prime minister and as president since 2014 — is seeking a new five-year term.
Erdogan’s vision for Turkey includes making the country one of the world’s top 10 nations in “politics, economy, technology, military and diplomacy” and reducing energy dependence on foreign nations.
He also vowed to go ahead with controversial plans to construct a canal cutting through Istanbul. The government insists the canal will ease marine traffic in the Bosporus Strait but environmental groups fear the project will cause ecologic damage.
“We want to make a strong start to the new century of the Republic,” said Erdogan.
Noting that Turkey’s constitution was drafted following a military coup in 1980, Erdogan promised a new constitution that would strengthen “the rule of law, pluralism, justice and equality.”
“The shelf life of the constitution of the Sept. 12 (1980) coup has already expired,” Erdogan said.
The Turkish leader said draft constitutional amendments to be submitted next week would ensure “the education and employment rights of all our girls and sisters whether they wear headscarves or are uncovered, as well as protect our family institution from the threat of perverted currents.”
Opinion polls indicate that Erdogan has lost some support amid high inflation running at more than 83%. Observers believe Erdogan has been taking an anti-LGBTQ stance to unite his conservative support base.
Erdogan also reiterated plans — first proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin — for Turkey to become an energy hub to deliver Russian gas to European nations. Analysts say the plan is unlikely to materialize, given European countries’ efforts to reduce their reliance on Russian energy.