Commission OKs draft law to fix Turkish president's term

Commission OKs draft law to fix Turkish president's term

Hüseyin Hayatsever/ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Commission OKs draft law to fix Turkish presidents term

The AKP’s Burhan Kuzu chairs a meeting of Constitution Commission .

Parliament’s Constitution Commission approved a draft bill yesterday to fix President Abdullah Gül’s term at seven years, potentially ending years of controversy over the mandate of the current head of state. 

The article, backed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), states that “the mandate of the 11th president is seven years.” The draft bill also includes a provision indicating that the incumbent president would be bound by legislation that was valid at the time he was elected, an implicit reference that Gül would serve a single term and would not be eligible to stand for re-election in 2014.

Turkey’s next president will be elected by popular vote for the first time, and Parliament has to pass a law that will outline the procedural rules for the elections. 

Opposition lawmakers harshly criticized the interim provision that fixed Gül’s term at seven years.

Constitutional amendments passed in 2007 that fixed the president’s term at five years are also binding for the current president, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Atilla Kart said, adding that Gül had the right to be re-elected. 

Kart said a constitutional amendment should be made if the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) wanted to fix Gül’s term at seven years. 

In response to the opposition critics, deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said the charter amendments passed in 2007 were made after Parliament elected Gül for a single-seven year term.

Opposition legislators also raised sharp objections to the provision of fundraising for presidential candidates. According to a draft law, only real persons can provide funding for candidates. The top limit for one person to donate is the salary of the highest-paid public servant, roughly 8,250 Turkish Liras. 

CHP deputy Ali Özgündüz said candidates’ fundraisers should be publicized before the election, while Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy Faruk Bal suggested that the candidates be financed by the government, not by private persons. 

The draft law was approved in the commission with AKP votes and is expected to go before Parliament next week for further debate.

The CHP previously signaled that it would ask the Constitutional Court to scrap the bill if it is approved by the Parliament on the grounds that the legislative efforts to fix Gül’s term at seven years were unconstitutional.
Speaking to reporters on the CHP’s possible move, AKP deputy chairman Hüseyin Çelik said he did not expect such a crisis.

“Even if the CHP asks the Constitutional Court, I don’t think the court will overrule the law,” Çelik said yesterday.

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