Turkey’s Constitutional Court has said regarding an appeal filed by the main opposition party to annul a law on presidential elections that incumbent President Abdullah Gül’s tenure is seven years and that he is eligible for re-election.
The court heard an opposition plea on Friday that sought to bring President Gül’s presidency to an abrupt end in August. However, the court ended a longtime controversy and said the incumbent president’s tenure end in 2014 and that he can be re-elected.
From the early days of Gül’s presidency there were doubts over whether he was subject to a five or seven year term, and the opposition wants the court to annul a law passed in January that said his term should end in 2014.
Should the court ruled in the opposition’s favour it would have created uncertainty within the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) that Erdoğan dominates.
Erdoğan has been widely expected to seek the presidency in 2014, but only after introducing a presidential system form of governance through constitutional changes to replace the current parliamentary system headed by a prime minister.
Erdoğan would have to seek the presidency this year, without the presidential system in place, or face a long delay until he could assume executive powers of a newly-styled presidency.
Uncertainty about the length of Gül’s tenure has persisted since he was first elected by parliament on August 28, 2007 to a seven-year term despite fierce opposition from the secularist military over his Islamist pedigree.
In a referendum in October that year, Turks approved a constitutional reform package including a measure replacing the single seven-year presidential tenure with a renewable five-year term.
In a bid to clear up uncertainty over how long Gul would spend in office, parliament approved a law in January saying he would serve a single seven-year term. Republican People’s Party (CHP) challenged the law as unconstitutional.
Under the 2007 reform package presidents will in future be elected by a popular vote rather than parliament.
Having overseen a decade of unprecedented prosperity in Turkey, Erdoğan is easily the most popular politician with the country’s new, conservative-minded middle class, and he would almost certainly win any election, as the opposition is too fractured to mount a credible challenge.
But any move to the presidency could lead to jostling within the ruling AK Party, that would risk bringing factional rivalries to the surface.