Jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş has said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is not legally eligible to run in the upcoming presidential election and that he will challenge his candidacy with the country’s election authority.
Demirtaş said on his Twitter account, which is managed by his lawyers, that Erdoğan cannot run for the top state post for a third time according to Turkey’s laws and that the laws apply to him as well as to every other citizen.
The politician, also a lawyer who has been behind bars since November 2016 on politically motivated charges and despite European Court of Human Rights rulings calling for his release, said he will submit a petition to the Supreme Election Board (YSK) objecting Erdoğan’s candidacy.
“Is Erdoğan a king that the laws don’t apply to him? Pardon me, but I don’t care about kings,” Demirtaş said, adding that Erdoğan’s candidacy contravenes the law not only because he doesn’t have a university degree but because, even if he did have one, he can’t run for a third term.
Debates among Turkish politicians on whether Erdoğan is eligible to run in the 2023 presidential election were reignited after Erdoğan recently proposed holding presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for June on May 14.
Erdoğan hem diploması olmadığı için hem de olsa bile üçüncü kez cumhurbaşkanı olamayacağından, adaylığı yasaya aykırı ve gayrı meşrudur.
Yüksek Seçim Kurulunun Erdoğan'ın adaylığını kabul etmesi bu gerçeği değiştirmez. Sadece, Yüksek Seçim Kurulu bir suça daha ortak olur.
— Selahattin Demirtaş (@hdpdemirtas) January 24, 2023
Erdoğan’s recent suggestion to hold elections on May 14 fueled ongoing debates about whether Erdoğan 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.
Erdoğan 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 Erdoğan 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.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ also commented on the issue on Thursday, telling reporters that running as a presidential candidate in the 2023 elections is Erdoğan’s constitutional right and that there’s no legal obstacle preventing him from doing so.
Erdoğan has been at the center of a controversy regarding his university degree, too, since a four-year university degree is a prerequisite for serving as president in Turkey.
Since the Office of the President has provided no satisfactory documentation of his graduation, the debate as to Erdoğan’s completion or not of university has been ongoing since 2014.
Demirtaş said the YSK approving Erdoğan’s candidacy does not change the fact that he’s not eligible to run for another term but in fact is causing the YSK to violate the law.
The YSK is being criticized for acting in favor of Erdoğan and his party while making decisions against opposition parties and politicians.
Demirtaş’s statements came in response to controversial remarks from main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who said his party is not challenging Erdoğan’s candidacy because they think it is doomed to be a failed attempt.
Kılıçdaroğlu said all YSK members are appointed by Erdoğan and that it’s unlikely for them to make a decision against Erdoğan’s candidacy.
The politician has attracted widespread criticism even from his own supporters for showing “helplessness” against what they said a violation of the law.
The CHP is a part of an opposition bloc, called the “Table of Six,” which is yet to announce their joint presidential candidate who will challenge Erdoğan in the election.