ANKARA - Turkey's parliament has given initial approval to a constitutional amendment bringing local elections forward by six months, a move seen as giving Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan more time to prepare for an expected presidential bid.

The amendment was approved late on Friday by 360 votes, just short of the two-thirds majority needed for it to pass without a second reading. It will be put to a referendum in 60 days if President Abdullah Gul does not return it for a second debate.

The polls to elect local mayors and heads of municipalities were originally scheduled for March 2014 and are the first in an electoral cycle which includes a presidential election a few months later and general elections in 2015.

It is an open secret that Erdogan wants to bid for a newly constituted executive presidency that will replace the current largely ceremonial post. Analysts and diplomats say he wants to avoid the local elections becoming a referendum on his rule.

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