LONDON, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Turkey's ruling AK Party could change its rules to allow Tayyip Erdogan to stand for a fourth term as prime minister in an "emergency" although such plans are not currently on the agenda, deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said on Thursday.
There has been speculation in Turkey that Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade, may try to remain prime minister in the next general election in 2015, even though under current party rules he cannot run again.
He has long been expected to stand for president in an August vote. President Abdullah Gul is, in turn, seen as a possible candidate for head of the AK Party and prime minister.
But Erdogan's failure to establish the executive presidency he wanted to beef up the largely ceremonial role, and a graft scandal shaking his government, have fuelled speculation that he may seek to stay prime minister.
"If we feel the need, we can change the principle (on three-term limits) even though it is not on our agenda yet," Arinc told a small media briefing in London, speaking through an interpreter.
"Even if we do this it will be in a democratic way, not in the Putin-Medvedev way," he said, referring to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's 2012 appointment by President and former prime minister Vladimir Putin.
Erdogan said in October he would run for the presidency if asked to do so by his party, but has dismissed suggestions that he could go head to head with Gul in a showdown for the job.
Critics say a crackdown on anti-government protests last summer and Erdogan's response to the corruption scandal, purging the police and judiciary and seeking tighter control of the Internet and courts, have betrayed his authoritarian tendencies.
Erdogan and Gul were founding members of the AK Party in 2001 but their relationship has at times appeared strained, with Gul taking a more conciliatory approach than the combative premier on issues including the protests last summer.
The two men appear to have closed ranks since the corruption scandal erupted in December, with Gul approving a controversial law tightening Internet controls and expected also to ratify greater government influence over the judiciary and stronger powers for the intelligence agency.
(Reporting by Sujata Rao; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
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