ANKARA – Turkey would no longer have a prime minister under constitutional reforms as the Erdogan-led government is seeking to usher in a presidential system, a cabinet minister said yesterday.

“There won’t be prime ministry in the new system,” Forestry and Water Works Minister Veysel Eroglu told the state-run Anadolu Agency on Thursday.

“In general there is a president and next to him probably a vice-president like in the United States. We might have more than one vice-president,” he said.

Turkey’s legislative and executive branches would however remain separate, he added. The new format is expected to be submitted to a referendum next year.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who reached Turkey on Thursday night after a two-day tour to Pakistan, has long sought a presidential system that would give the country’s largely ceremonial presidency executive powers.

Erdogan, who was elected to the top post in 2014 after serving as prime minister for more than a decade, wants a strong presidency similar to France or the United States.

Until recently, opposition parties had opposed a presidential system, fearing it would allow Erdogan to rule unchecked.

His ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) needs at least 330 votes in the 550-seat parliament to call a referendum to legislate the changes.

The government is now engaged in talks with the country’s nationalist party, which has recently suggested it could support putting a presidential system to a referendum vote in the spring.

Eroglu predicted that the proposed package would be put to a referendum next spring with the support of MPs from the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Opponents say that since he was elected Erdogan has become de-facto executive president and argue the proposed changes could drag Turkey into one-man rule.

Before Erdogan became head of state, the Turkish prime minister was seen as the number one but current Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is very much his subordinate. The full blueprint is yet to emerge, but Erdoglu indicated that cabinet ministers would no longer be MPs.

The Ankara bureau chief of Hurriyet Daily News Serkan Demirtas wrote on Tuesday that under the changes Erdogan could stay in power until 2029 as the clock on the maximum two mandates would start from zero.