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Turkey’s opposition bloc says Erdoğan not legally eligible to run for presidency again

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An opposition bloc of six parties in Turkey has said in a joint statement that the country’s current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is not legally eligible to run for the top state post for a third term, Deutsche Welle Turkish edition reported.

The parties, which include the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and right-wing İYİ (Good) Party in addition to four small parties, held their 11th meeting on Thursday, which was hosted by İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener.

At the end of their meeting, the opposition leaders issued a joint statement in which they claimed that Erdoğan, the presidential candidate of the Public Alliance, which includes his Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), cannot run in the presidential elections scheduled for May  14. Turkey will also hold parliamentary elections on the same day.

The opposition leaders said in their statement that the constitution and the relevant laws clearly show that Erdoğan cannot run for a third time.

“Erdoğan announcing his candidacy for a third time, in violation of the constitution, is yet another black page he added to the history of our democracy. We would like to let our people know that we do not approve of this recklessness that ignores the constitution,” said the leaders.

Erdoğan’s recent suggestion to hold elections on May 14, a month earlier than scheduled, fueled ongoing debates about whether he 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.

If the parliament had decided to hold early elections, Erdoğan would have been legally eligible to run for another term, say some judicial experts and opposition politicians.

Erdoğan used his presidential power to hold the elections one month earlier than originally scheduled, and the decision was not submitted to parliament for approval, and thus the May 14 elections can’t be considered early elections, they say.

Meanwhile, AKP spokesperson Ömer Çelik responded to the opposition bloc’s statement on Twitter later on Thursday, saying there is no legal obstacle in the way of Erdoğan’s candidacy and that it is even not a subject of debate.

He accused the opposition parties of resorting to illegal means to design politics, recalling similar attempts in the past.

Jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, announced on Twitter earlier this week that Erdoğan is not legally eligible to run in the upcoming presidential election and that he will challenge his candidacy with the country’s election authority (YSK).

Demirtaş said on his Twitter account, which is managed by his lawyers, that Erdoğan cannot run for the top state post for a third time according to Turkey’s laws and that the laws apply to him as well as to every other citizen.

Demirtaş’s statements came in response to controversial remarks from main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who said his party is not challenging Erdoğan’s candidacy because they think it is doomed to be a failed attempt.

Kılıçdaroğlu said all YSK members are appointed by Erdoğan and that it’s unlikely for them to make a decision against Erdoğan’s candidacy.

The politician has attracted widespread criticism even from his own supporters for showing “helplessness” against what they say is a violation of the law.

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