The Turkish government could potentially hold a referendum on proposed changes to the constitution to reform the judiciary before the summer, Interior Minister Besir Atalay said on Wednesday.
Atalay's comments were the first indication of a timeframe for a vote.
"We would like to hear the opposition's opinions on reforms, but we are very determined, we will hold a referendum if necessary. I think this would better to be held before the summer," Atalay said.
Last Saturday, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said the government would present proposed constitutional amendments to parliament before the end of March, although the AK Party lacks the two-thirds majority needed to pass the measures.
Ergin said the government would take the issue to a national referendum if it does not get parliamentary approval.
Changes to Turkey's constitution, a charter ratified in 1982 following a military coup two years earlier, are a key requirement for Turkey's European Union membership bid.
The government wants to make it harder to outlaw political parties and reform the way judges and prosecutors are appointed. It also wishes to curb the role of the Constitutional Court.
Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek said this week: "The current constitution is the cause of many important problems in Turkey, it's also a major obstacle that stands in the way of Turkey's EU membership."
Reform of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, which appoints senior members of courts, is an extremely contentious issue. The EU has urged its reform to ensure its independence and meet European norms.
In 2008 the AK narrowly avoided closure by Turkey's Constitutional Court after a case was brought against it by the chief prosecutor.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 18 Mart 2010, 12:01