Turkey Coup Update Merkel ally expects Erdogan to strengthen grip on power

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President Tayyip Erdogan play

President Tayyip Erdogan

(Reuters)
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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will take advantage of an attempted military coup to strengthen his grip on power, Elmar Brok, the chair of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee and an ally of Germany's Chancellor said.

Brok, a senior member of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, spoke to Die Welt newspaper overnight as Erdogan loyalists fought back against the power grab and the Turkish leader told supporters he would "clean up" the army.

"Erdogan will try to extend his position of power," the veteran member of the European parliament was quoted as saying in the interview published on Saturday, adding that such a move could lead to a "dramatic divide" in Turkish society.

"Turkey must quickly return to constitutional order. This would apply to the military as well as for Erdogan who currently fulfils a function as president that is not foreseen in the constitution," Brok added.

Erdogan and his supporters are pushing for a more executive presidency, saying it would guard against the sort of fractious coalition politics that hampered Turkey's development in the 1990s.

His opponents, and some sceptical Western allies, have accused Erdogan of growing authoritarianism. Prosecutors have opened more than 1,800 cases against people for insulting Erdogan since he became president in 2014. Opposition newspapers have been shut and journalists and academics critical of government policies sacked.

There was no immediate reaction to Brok's words from Turkey, where Erdogan and his supporters said they were fighting for democracy as they tried to crush the last remnants of the coup attempt on Saturday.

The leader of Germany's opposition Green party, Cem Oezdemir, echoed Brok's message.

"Erdogan won't let this opportunity be missed to not only thoroughly clean the military but to finally realise his project of a constitutional amendment with the objective of autocracy," Oezdemir told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

"The few critical media outlets and the first green shots of civil society have certainly nothing good to expect."

Germany has led talks with Turkey through the European Union, seeking its help in controlling a record influx of migrants. Turkey has long sought to join the bloc.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and German government spokesman Steffen Seibert both condemned the military coup attempt and called for restraint.

"It is encouraging that the parties represented in the Turkish parliament declared their support for the democratic principles," Steinmeier said.

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