Debates over Erdogan's eligibility as presidential candidate sparked as elections near
Debates among Turkish politicians on whether President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is eligible to run in the 2023 presidential election were reignited after Erdogan on Wednesday proposed holding presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for June on May 14.

Erdogan's recent suggestion to hold elections on May 14 fueled ongoing debates about whether Erdogan 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.

Erdogan 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 Erdogan 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.

Speaking during a program on Halk TV, Ali Babacan, leader of the opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), said Erdogan running in the 2023 presidential election would violate the constitution unless the parliament decides to hold early elections.

 “All the lawyers in our party and majority of lawyers in Turkey say it is President Erdogan's second term. Therefore, they say he can’t be a candidate for a third time. According to the constitution, it is possible [for him] to be a candidate for a third time only if parliament decides on early elections,” Babacan said.

Regarding Erdogan's proposal to hold elections in May, the DEVA leader said any election held before June 18 is an early election and that it should be officially decided either by a majority of parliament or by Erdogan.

 “If this election is to be brought forward, it would be possible through the signature of Mr. Erdogan,” Babacan said.

For parliament to call early elections, a majority of votes — 360 — is needed. Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has 286 seats in parliament, while its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has 48, thus necessitating the support of opposition parties to pass the measure.

Babacan further stated that what needs to be done is to submit petitions saying Erdogan isn’t legally eligible to run in the 2023 presidential elections to the Supreme Election Board (YSK).

 “But I guess everyone could guess how the YSK would decide on this issue,” he added, hinting at the lack of judicial independence and hollowed out democratic institutions in Erdogan's centralized presidential government.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag also commented on the issue on Thursday, telling reporters that running as a presidential candidate in the 2023 elections is Erdogan's constitutional right and that there’s no legal obstacle preventing him from doing so.

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