Quarrel grows over Gül’s term

Quarrel grows over Gül’s term

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Quarrel grows over Gül’s term

Hasip Kaplan

Opposition parties sharpened their objections yesterday to a seven-year term for President Abdullah Gül, mounting charges that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has a “secret agenda” to introduce a presidential system for Turkey with himself at the helm.

“It is understood that [Erdoğan] has a secret agenda aiming at a presidential system and will transform the presidency accordingly through constitutional amendments if the opportunity arises,” Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli said in a statement.

He said the controversy carried the risk of growing into a “political crisis” if Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) pressed ahead with “ravaging the law in line with their expectations and intentions.”

Like the MHP, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) argue that Gül is entitled to a five-year, once-renewable term under constitutional amendments in 2007 that were adopted shortly after Parliament elected Gül for a single seven-year term.
Breaking his silence on the issue Dec. 17, Erdoğan said Gül should serve seven years.

Bahçeli said the constitutional amendments reducing parliamentary terms from five to four years were considered retroactive for the previous legislature after they were approved as part of the same amendment package in 2007.

He called on Parliament to consult with the Supreme Electoral Board (YSK) and pass an arrangement “in line with the current Constitution” that would be binding for Gül.
The CHP, for its part, said Gül’s term could be fixed to seven years, until 2014, only by amending the Constitution.

“If there is a need for an amendment, it should be a constitutional amendment. If the AKP says they can overcome this problem without a constitutional amendment, that would mean the ruling party is usurping the will of the people,” CHP deputy group chair Akif Hamzaçebi told reporters yesterday.
The BDP also said a law to fix Gül’s term at seven years would mean a constitutional breach.

“We will not let them bypass the Constitution with a law,” BDP deputy group chair Hasip Kaplan said. He called on Gül to publicly confirm that he would serve five years and then resign for elections in 2012. 

The row flared up after it emerged that the AKP was planning to add a provision to a draft law on the procedural rules for the presidential elections; the topic is expected to be debated at Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission sometime in January.

Under the provision, presidential candidates would start submitting their applications on a date in 2014, effectively fixing Gül’s term to seven years, despite the fact the Constitution says presidents serve five-year terms.