Turkish Parliament’s Constitution Commission approved a draft bill (Jan.12) to fix President Abdullah Gül’s term at 7 years –up to 2014- and make it impossible for him to run for a 2nd term -, a measure that will be applied only on him and other former Turkish Presidents, potentially ending years of controversy over the mandate of the current Head of state. Parliament still has to ratify the bill; thus further debate will take place next week.
The confusion over the length of Gul's Presidency stemmed from changes to the Constitution made after he was elected by Parliament in Aug. 2007. As provided by the election law then in force, Gul had been elected for a one-time seven-year term as President, though there were already proposals - subsequently passed in a referendum (Oct.2007) - that the Presidency should be for 5 years and for a maximum of 2 terms. Moreover, in the future, Turkey's President should be elected by the people instead of Parliament.
Yesterday’s bill, backed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), states that “the mandate of the 11th President Gül is seven years” and it also includes a provision indicating that the incumbent President would be bound by legislation that was valid at the time when 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.
Opposition lawmakers harshly criticized the interim provision that fixed Gül’s term at seven years. According to them, constitutional amendments passed in 2007 are also binding for the current President and Gül had the right to be re-elected, while Government deems that the charter amendments passed in 2007 were made after Parliament elected Gül for a single-seven year term.
The change –if approved- could be significant for the ambitions of PM Erdogan, who plans to draft a new constitution to replace the one framed after a military coup three decades ago, and he reportedly favors moving Turkey to a more Presidential-style of Government.
There is speculation that Erdogan might want to become President before his 3rd and final term as Prime Minister ends in 2015.