Debates among Turkish politicians on whether President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is eligible to run in the 2023 presidential election were reignited after Erdoğan on Wednesday proposed holding presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for June on May 14.
Erdoğan’s recent suggestion to hold elections on May 14 fueled ongoing debates about whether Erdoğan can run for a third term due to a change in the system, with some claiming he isn’t legally eligible because he has already served two terms and cannot run for a third.
Erdoğan was first elected president for a five-year renewable term in 2014 by a direct vote under the parliamentary system. Turkey switched to the presidential system of governance with a referendum in 2017 and held snap presidential and parliamentary polls in 2018, when Erdoğan was elected president again. Under the presidential system, a person can be elected president for a five-year renewable term if the election is held as scheduled.
Speaking during a program on Halk TV, Ali Babacan, leader of the opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), said Erdoğan running in the 2023 presidential election would violate the constitution unless the parliament decides to hold early elections.
“All the lawyers in our party and majority of lawyers in Turkey say it is President Erdoğan’s second term. Therefore, they say he can’t be a candidate for a third time. According to the constitution, it is possible [for him] to be a candidate for a third time only if parliament decides on early elections,” Babacan said.
Regarding Erdoğan’s proposal to hold elections in May, the DEVA leader said any election held before June 18 is an early election and that it should be officially decided either by a majority of parliament or by Erdoğan.
“If this election is to be brought forward, it would be possible through the signature of Mr. Erdoğan,” Babacan said.
For parliament to call early elections, a majority of votes — 360 — is needed. Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has 286 seats in parliament, while its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has 48, thus necessitating the support of opposition parties to pass the measure.
Babacan further stated that what needs to be done is to submit petitions saying Erdoğan isn’t legally eligible to run in the 2023 presidential elections to the Supreme Election Board (YSK).
“But I guess everyone could guess how the YSK would decide on this issue,” he added, hinting at the lack of judicial independence and hollowed out democratic institutions in Erdoğan’s centralized presidential government.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ also commented on the issue on Thursday, telling reporters that running as a presidential candidate in the 2023 elections is Erdoğan’s constitutional right and that there’s no legal obstacle preventing him from doing so.