Turkish presidential election, 2007


Turkish presidential election, 2007

The 2007 Turkish presidential election refers to two attempts to elect the country's 11th president, to succeed Ahmet Necdet Sezer. The first attempt consisted of two first rounds, on 27 April and 6 May, where the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was unsuccessful in electing its candidate, foreign minister Abdullah Gül. In the second attempt Abdullah Gül was successfully elected in the third round.

Turkey's presidential office is regarded as the guardian of the country's secular system; the fact that Gül's wife wears the Islamic headscarf, as well as his own history in political Islam, brought his secularist credentials into question. Both first rounds were subsequently almost entirely boycotted by opposition MPs. Turkey's constitutional court later controversially annulled the first attempt on the grounds that a quorum of two-thirds was necessary, which was impossible without opposition support. AK then called a snap election, which saw it returned to government with a larger proportion of the vote. The party decided to renominate Gül shortly after the victory. [cite news| url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6945140.stm| title=New Turkey presidency row looms|publisher=BBC News |date=14 August 2007| accessdate=2007-08-19]

Abdullah Gül was finally elected Turkey's 11th President after three rounds in the second attempt. The first round of voting was on 20 August, with a second on 24 August and a third on 28 August. There was a quorum this time, since most opposition parties, most importantly the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), did not boycott the election.

Procedure

The presidential vote is held among MPs in parliament by secret ballot. A candidate requires a two-thirds majority (367 votes) to be elected in the first two rounds. If there is no clear winner before the third round, the winning threshold is dropped to a simple majority (276 votes). If there is still no winner, the two candidates with the most votes from the third round progress to a runoff election, where the simple majority rule still applies. In the event of no clear winner among the two, the Constitution states that a snap general election must be called to overcome the parliamentary deadlock.

First election attempt: April–May 2007

Electors

Campaign

* Abdullah Gül, foreign minister, deputy prime minister, and former prime minister, Justice and Development Party. [ cite news| title=Aday Gül |language=Turkish|publisher=Hürriyet|date=24 April 2007|accessdate=2007-04-22|url= http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/6391764.asp?gid=180 ] He is the official candidate of the Justice and Development Party, thus making him the strongest candidate to be the 11th president of Turkey. On May 06 2007, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul withdrew his candidacy after Parliament failed to achieve a quorum for a second time.
* Ersönmez Yarbay, Justice and Development Party. cite news| title='Tek adam' tepkisi |language=Turkish|publisher=Milliyet|date=22 April 2007|accessdate=2007-04-22|url= http://www.milliyet.com.tr/2007/04/22/siyaset/asiy.html ] He withdrew his candidacy before the start of presidential voting. cite news| title=Yarbay's withdraw|publisher=Turkish Daily News|date=28 April 2007|accessdate=2007-04-28|url= http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=71861 ]

Public protests

On 14 April 2007, two days before the start of the nominations announcement for the presidential elections, over 300,000 protesters [http://www.turkishpress.com/news.asp?id=173784] [http://www.tiscali.co.uk/news/newswire.php/news/reuters/2007/04/30/topnews/one-million-turks-rally-against-government.html&template=/topnews/feeds/story_template.html] marched in the centre of Ankara, chanting slogans such as 'Turkey is secular, and it will remain secular', and 'We do not want an Imam for President' to protest against the possibility of Prime Minister Erdoğan or another member of the Justice and Development Party standing in the presidential elections. However, the only presidential candidate is a member of this party.

A second rally was organised for 29 April 2007 opposing the candidacy of Abdullah Gül from the Justice and Development Party, which has its roots in political Islam. CNN Turk put the figure of those participating in the rally in defence of secularism at 1,370,000; the largest protest of its kind in Turkish history. The rally was broadcast live across the world, with the crowds chanting the now familiar slogan 'Turkey is secular, and it will remain secular'.A third mass rally took place in the western Turkish towns of Manisa, Çanakkale and Bodrum in defence of the secular republic. Then came fifth rally at Gündoğdu square, İzmirand sixth rally in Samsun and seventh rally in Denizli.

Turkish armed forces' involvement in the elections

General Yaşar Büyükanıt, current Chief of the Turkish General Staff, said that the new president should be loyal to republic principles not only by words but also by heart on 12 April 2007.

On April 27, 2007, the Turkish Armed Forces issued a statement of its interests:

"The problem that emerged in the presidential election process is focused on arguments over secularism. Turkish Armed Forces are concerned about the recent situation. It should not be forgotten that the Turkish Armed Forces are a party in those arguments, and absolute defender of secularism. Also, the Turkish Armed Forces is definitely opposed to those arguments and negative comments. It will display its attitude and action openly and clearly whenever it is necessary... Those who are opposed to Great Leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's understanding 'How happy is the one who says I am a Turk' are enemies of the Republic of Turkey and will remain so. The Turkish Armed Forces maintain their sound determination to carry out their duties stemming from laws to protect the unchangeable characteristics of the Republic of Turkey. Their loyalty to this determination is absolute." [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6602775.stm] [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6602375.stm] ]

In response to these statements, government spokesman Cemil Çiçek made a speech. He said that 59th government was sensitive about the secular, democratic, social and law state. The statements by the Army was considered as against the 59th government. Çiçek elaborated, in a democratic law state, it was strange to even think that Turkish Armed Forces, responsible to prime minister, would talk against prime minister. [cite news| title=Hükümetten TSK Açıklamasına Yanıt|language=Turkish|publisher=Ntvmsnbc|date=April 27, 2007|accessdate=2007-04-28|url= http://www.ntvmsnbc.com/news/406658.asp ]

The European Union has also warned Turkey's military not to interfere in politics. EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said:

This is a clear test case whether the Turkish armed forces respect democratic secularization and democratic values... The timing is rather surprising and strange. It's important that the military respects also the rules of the democratic game and its own role in that democratic game. [cite news| title=EU warns Turkish army over vote|language=English|publisher=BBC News|date=April 28, 2007|accessdate=2007-04-28|url= http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6602661.stm ]

US is also interested in this issue. Dan Fried, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said: "We don't take sides." But, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice answered the question that whether US supported EU's approach: "The United States fully supports Turkish democracy and its constitutional processes, and that means that the election, the electoral system... have to be upheld. Yes. The answer is yes, the U.S. would be in a similar position", supporting EU's approach. [ [http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=72317 For the first time, US warns against army intervention - Turkish Daily News May 04, 2007 ] ]

Voting on April 27 and May 6

The first round of voting took place on April 27, 2007, which resulted in Abdullah Gül, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the official candidate of the Justice and Development Party, achieving 357 votes. 361 members of the parliament were present at the elections and CHP, DYP, ANAVATAN, SHP, HYP, GP and some independent members boycotted the voting.

As of 27 April and 6 May 2007, the following parties were represented in the Turkish Grand National Assembly and therefore could vote:

Votes taken by Abdullah Gül was below the two thirds of the vote needed, and so, there would be another round of voting in the following days.

However, the opposition party Republican People's Party filed a claim to the Supreme Court, seeking a declaration of nullity in relation to the first round of voting. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6602375.stm BBC NEWS | Europe | Army 'concerned' by Turkey vote ] ]

On May 1, 2007, Supreme Court ruled that if two thirds of the votes was needed to elect the president in the 1st round, then it was also needed that two thirds of the parliament were present at the parliament. If this was not the case, the 1st round would have to be repeated. The constitutional court ruled in favour of the Republican People's Party and declared the first round annulled. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6612831.stm Turkey's presidency vote annulled] , BBC, Tuesday, 1 May 2007, 17:33 GMT ] Nine of the eleven members were in favour of annulling the voting. Therefore, there was no second round on May 2 2007 as the first round election had failed.

On May 6 2007, the first round was repeated. The boycotting continued and the voting was not started at the parliament. The repeated round resulted in the withdrawal of Abdullah Gül as the necessary amount of members present was not reached yet again. [ [http://www.ntvmsnbc.com/news/406859.asp NTV-Msnbc 01.05.2007] ]

On May 9 2007, the presidential elections were postponed due to the lack of a candidate after the pullout of Abdullah Gül. The following day, Tayyip Erdoğan called for an early general election. [ [http://www.haberler.com/cumhurbaskanligi-secim-sureci-resmen-sona-erdi-2-haberi/ HABER: Cumhurbaşkanlığı Seçim Süreci Resmen Sona Erdi haberi ] ] .

Interim period

Succession controversy

Ahmet Necdet Sezer's term expired on 16 May 2007. This would have been the date when his successor would have been sworn in if the election had succeeded. [cite news| url= http://www.setimes.com/cocoon/setimes/xhtml/en_GB/newsbriefs/setimes/newsbriefs/2007/03/05/nb-08| title= Turkish Parliament to begin selecting next president on May 1st|publisher= Southeast European Times|date=5 March 2007|accessdate=2007-04-25] Some claimed that Ahmet Necdet Sezer should leave the position and that the parliamentary speaker should fill the office until Sezer's successor was rightfully elected; however, it was decided that Sezer would retain the post until his successor's election.

Change of the method to popular vote

The parliament initially passed constitutional amendments for electoral reform (including election of the president by popular vote, shortening the term form seven to vie years and allowing a second term) on May 11, but Sezer vetoed the bill on May 25 over concerns that the change could pit a president with a strong popular mandate against the prime minister and cause instability. Parliament voted 370-21 to override the veto on May 31. Sezer submitted the bill for a referendum on June 15. Nevertheless, the CHP and Sezer filed for a cancellation of the vote by the Constitutional Court, citing alleged procedural flaws. [http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/world/4851289.html] This was turned down by the Constitutional Court in early July. In any case, the amendments were not in force in time to change the ongoing process, under which the newly elected parliament had the duty to elect the president within 45 days, and under which there would be snap elections if the parliament failed to elect a new president.

Effect on the general election

The failure to select a President caused the 2007 general election to be brought forward, since the constitution states that a snap general election must be called to overcome the parliamentary deadlock, if a president is not elected. In the election, the AKP retained its majority and improved its popular vote count, but did not gain a two thirds majority.

econd election attempt: August 2007

After the general election, the newly composed Grand National Assembly restarted the election for Sezer's successor.

Procedure

The parliament needed to gather "367" members to be present in the assembly for the election to begin. Among the members of the established session, the presidential vote is held by a secret ballot. A candidate requires a two-thirds majority (367 votes) to be elected in the first two rounds. If there is no clear winner before the third round, the winning threshold is dropped to a simple majority (276 votes). If there is still no winner, the two candidates with the most votes from the third round progress to a runoff election, where the simply majority rule still applies.

In the event of no clear winner among the two, the Constitution states that a snap general election must be called to overcome the parliamentary deadlock.

The parliament has scheduled the first three rounds of the election to be on August 20, August 24 and August 28 [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6940904.stm|title=Turkey lines up presidential poll|publisher=BBC News|date=August 10 2007|accessdate=2007-08-10] .

Electors

Candidates

Following the general election, there was some speculation about whether Abdullah Gül would be nominated again by his party. There were hints that the prime minister might seek a consensus candidate, [ [http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90777/6222444.html People's Daily Online - Turkey to elect new president without crisis: PM ] ] but ultimately Gül was renominated by his party on 13 August [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/|title=Turkey's Ruling AK Party nominates Abdullah Gul for president. More soon|publisher=BBC News|date=August 13 2007|accessdate=2007-08-13] , which some credited mainly to his own insistence. Two other parties have decided to field their own candidates: The Nationalist Action Party nominated Sabahattin Çakmakoğlu on August 17, [ [http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=119740 Today'S Zaman ] ] [ [http://www.ntvmsnbc.com/news/417587.asp Kayserili Gül’e MHP’den Kayserili rakip ] ] and the Democratic Left Party nominated Hüseyin Tayfun İçli [ [http://www.ntvmsnbc.com/news/417683.asp DSP’nin cumhurbaşkanı adayı İçli ] ] .

While Gül is seen as the favorite, a controversy started after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan's last speech. Erdoğan said "The people who say that (Gül is not my president), must renounce their citizenship" on television. This was an attempt to answer Hürriyet columnist Bekir Coşkun but created a larger impact than the PM expected. Many people find it an anti-democratic attempt. [Citation
first = Reuters
title = Turkish PM attacked for telling Gul critics to leave
url = http://www.boston.com/news/world/middleeast/articles/2007/08/22/turkish_pm_attacked_for_telling_gul_critics_to_leave/?rss_id=Boston.com+%2F+News
accessdate = 2007-08-27
] [Citation
last = Bekdil
first = Bural
title = Pure, honest, 100% Tayyip Erdoğan
url = http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=81657
accessdate = 2007-08-27
] Bekir Coşkun is known for his opposition to the ruling AKP. [Citation
last = Coşkun
first = Bekir
title = Çöl Yolcuları...
url = http://hurarsiv.hurriyet.com.tr/goster/haber.aspx?id=4382679&yazarid=2
accessdate = 2007-08-31
] He became one of the main actors of the 2007 presidential election after his fellow columnist Emin Çölaşan, again from Hürriyet, was fired after an article he wrote about the religious magazines in Turkey.

Voting

After completion of the second round, the results are:electiontable|Turkish presidential election, 2007

Summary of the August 2007 Turkish presidential election candidates
-!style="background-color:#E9E9E9" align=left valign=top|Candidates!style="background-color:#E9E9E9" align=left valign=top|Party!style="background-color:#E9E9E9" align=right|1st round
(20 Aug)!style="background-color:#E9E9E9" align=right|2nd round
(24 Aug)!style="background-color:#E9E9E9" align=right|3rd round
(28 Aug)
-
align=left|Abdullah Gül
align=left|Justice and Development Party ("Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi")
341
337
339
-
align=left|Sabahattin Çakmakoğlu
align=left|Nationalist Movement Party ("Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi")
70
71
70
-
align=left|Hüseyin Tayfun İçli
align=left|Democratic Left Party ("Demokratik Sol Parti")
13
14
13
-
colspan=2 rowspan=1|Spoiled votes
1
0
2
-
colspan=2 rowspan=1|Blank votes
23
24
23
-
align=right colspan=2 style="background-color:#E9E9E9"|Total MP turnout
width="75" align="right" style="background-color:#E9E9E9"|448
width="75" align="right" style="background-color:#E9E9E9"|446
width="75" align="right" style="background-color:#E9E9E9"|448
-
colspan=6 align=left|Sources: [http://www.tbmm.gov.tr/ Turkish Grand National Assembly online archives] , [http://www.newsobserver.com/1635/story/676521.html newsobserver.com]

ee also

*Turkish presidential election, 2000

Footnotes


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