Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Jan. 18 signalled that presidential and parliamentary elections will be held on May 14, once again stirring the debate on whether he can legitimately run for office as this is his second term.
Erdoğan became president for the first time in the presidential elections held in 2014.
He later took office as the first president of the new executive presidential system in the elections held in June 2018. Under the new system, a person can be elected president at most two times.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ on Jan. 19 claimed that there is no obstacle for Erdoğan to be a candidate again.
“This election will be the second election. Our President is a candidate running for the second president of the Presidential Government System and it is his second candidacy. There are no constitutional obstacles,” Bozdağ said.
Article 110 of the Constitution says that “A person may be elected as the President of the Republic for two terms at most,” whereas Article 116 says “If the Assembly decides to renew the elections during the second term of the President of the Republic, he/she may once again be a candidate.”
Constitutional Lawyer Prof. Korkut Kanadoğlu argued that the constitution does not separate between two regimes, so this is Erdoğan’s second term. “Such a claim is against the Constitution and violates the democratic rule of law,” he said, according to reporting by DW Turkish.
He stated that Erdoğan can be a candidate for a third-time only if the parliament decides to renew elections.
Parliament can decide to hold early elections with the approval of 360 lawmakers out of 600. The total number of seats in the People's Alliance, consisting of ruling AKP, far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the ultranationalist Grand Unity Party (BBP), is 335.
Prof. Şule Özsoy Boyunsuz said that Article 101 was added to the Constitution in 2007, not 2017 when the presidential regime was voted in a referendum.
“It means that this article is not specific to the Presidential Government System. The arguments that the term limit will start as of 2017 cannot be considered legally valid,” Boyunsuz commented.
“There is no special regulation in the Constitution regarding the date from which the term limit will be calculated for the presidents who have served before,” she added, saying that Erdoğan can run for the office only with the early election decision of the Parliament.
On the other hand, Constitutional Lawyer Prof. Necmi Yüzbaşıoğlu said that this debate will question Erdoğan's legitimacy.
“There is some truth to the rhetoric of unconstitutionality (for Erdoğan’s re-run). Such a discussion is not acceptable in terms of the legitimacy of the president. The President should not open their position to the slightest discussion. Therefore, the president should not re-run,” he commented.
The High Election Board (YSK) has the final say on whether Erdoğan can run for presidency.
Erdoğan’s ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli previously said that there is no obstacle for Erdoğan to be a candidate again.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu had said that his party would not object to Erdoğan's candidacy.