Turkish presidential election, 2007

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The 2007 Turkish presidential election refers to two attempts to elect the country's 11th president, to succeed Ahmet Necdet Sezer. The most likely candidate for president was Abdullah Gül. 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, turned the elections into a political crisis.

The first attempt consisted of the first rounds on 27 April and its repeat on 6 May after Turkey's constitutional court annulled the first round on 27 April. The constitutional court decided that a quorum of two-thirds was necessary, which was impossible without opposition support. Both first rounds were almost entirely boycotted by opposition MPs to disable the voting to start. Therefore, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) was unsuccessful in electing its candidate, foreign minister Abdullah Gül. AK Party then called a snap election which was held on July 22, 2007. The general elections saw it returned to government with a larger proportion of the vote. Subsequently, Gül was renominated and was finally elected in the third round of the second attempt of presidential election.[1] The first round of this voting was on 20 August, while a second was on 24 August and a third was on 28 August. There was a quorum this time, since some opposition parties, most importantly the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), did not boycott the election.

Procedure[edit]

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. In addition, the main opposition party, CHP argued that a quorum of two-thirds was necessary while the ruling party, AK Party claimed that it was not necessary. Later, the constitutional court ruled that a quorum of two-thirds was necessary.

First election attempt: April–May 2007[edit]

Electors[edit]

Parties Seats
Elected At dissolution
Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) 363 351
Republican People's Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (CHP) 178 151
Motherland Party (Anavatan Partisi, ANAP) 0 20
True Path Party (Doğru Yol Partisi, DYP) changed its name to Democratic Party (Demokrat Parti, DP) on May 27, 2007 0 5
Social Democratic People's Party (Sosyaldemokrat Halk Partisi, SHP) 0 1
People's Ascent Party (Halkın Yükselişi Partisi, HYP) 0 1
Young Party (Genç Parti, GP) 0 1
Independents (Bağımsız) 9 11
Vacant Seats (Boş) 9
Total 550 541

Candidates[edit]

Presidential Candidate Abdullah Gül.

Abdullah Gül, foreign minister, deputy prime minister, and former prime minister, Justice and Development Party. Erdoğan announced Gül's candidancy on April 24, 2007 while calling Gül as his brother.[2] He was the official candidate of the Justice and Development Party, thus making him the strongest candidate to be the 11th president of Turkey. During his campaign, he met the leaders of parties represented in the Parliament, except Genç Party leader Cem Uzan.[3] None of the parties said that they would vote for Gül in the elections. After the Supreme Court's rule on the election method, his chance to become the next president decreased since the support of Justice and Development Party had become not enough to get elected. On May 6, 2007, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül withdrew his candidacy after the Parliament failed to achieve a quorum for a second time.

Ersönmez Yarbay, Justice and Development Party.[4] He announced his candidancy since he believed that there should be a second candidate in the elections. By his candidancy, he protested the election method of the president, as he alleged that Erdoğan would decide the next president on his own. However, he withdrew his candidacy before the start of presidential voting.[5]

Republic Protests[edit]

Main article: Republic Protests

On 14 April 2007, two days before the start of the nominations announcement for the presidential elections, over one million protesters[6][7] 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 was a member of this party.

Turkish demonstrators in the large square before the Anıtkabir

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 Türk 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. The spokesman of the meeting was Türkan Saylan.[8]

A third mass rally took place in the western Turkish towns of Manisa, Çanakkale, and Bodrum in defence of the secular republic. The fifth rally took place at Alsancak Gündoğdu square, İzmir. A sixth rally was in Samsun and a seventh in Denizli.

E-memorandum[edit]

On 12 April 2007, in a press conference of the then Chief of the Turkish General Staff General Yaşar Büyükanıt, the Armed Forces' opinion on the elections was asked. Büyükanıt answered the question stating that the new president should be loyal to republic principles not only by words but also by heart.

On April 27, 2007, the Turkish Armed Forces issued a statement of its interests on its official website, later termed the "e-memorandum" by Ural Akbulut:

"...The problem that emerged in the presidential election process is focused on arguments over secularism. Turkish Armed Forces are concerned about the recent situation. ... the Turkish Armed Forces are a party in those arguments, and absolute defender of secularism..." [9]

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 lawful state.

Voting on April 27 and May 6[edit]

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:

Presidential election: Seats 1. round
April 27
Repeated 1. round
May 6
Justice and Development Party (AK Party) 352 352 352
Republican People's Party (CHP) 149 1 1
Motherland Party (ANAP) 20 2 2
True Path Party (DYP) 4 2 2
Social Democratic People's Party Sosyaldemokrat Halk Partisi (SHP) 1 0 0
People's Ascent Party (HYP) 1 0 0
Young Party (GP) 1 0 0
Independents Bağımsız 13 11
Total Seats/ Total (Yes) 541 357 (Among 361) 358(Among 358)
Total (No) (180 boycotted) (179 boycotted)
Please note that the distribution of seats has changed since the latest elections in 2002.

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.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12]

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.[13]

Interim period[edit]

Succession controversy[edit]

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.[14] 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[edit]

The parliament initially passed constitutional amendments for electoral reform (including election of the president by popular vote, shortening the term form seven to five 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.[15] 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.

The general election[edit]

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 AK Party retained its majority and improved its popular vote count, but did not gain a two-thirds majority.

Second election attempt: August 2007[edit]

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

Procedure[edit]

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 had scheduled the first three rounds of the election to be on August 20, August 24 and August 28.[16]

Electors[edit]

Parties
Electors
Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) 341
Republican People's Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (CHP) 99
Nationalist Movement Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, MHP) 71
Democratic Society Party (Demokratik Toplum Partisi, DTP) 20
Democratic Left Party (Demokratik Sol Parti, DSP) 13
Great Union Party (Büyük Birlik Partisi, BBP) 1
Freedom and Solidarity Party (Özgürlük ve Dayanışma Partisi, ÖDP) 1
Independents (Bağımsız) 3
Total 550

Candidates[edit]

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,[17] but ultimately Gül was renominated by his party on 13 August,[18] after MHP announced its decision not to boycott the elections. Two other parties have decided to field their own candidates: The Nationalist Action Party nominated Sabahattin Çakmakoğlu on August 17,[19][20] and the Democratic Left Party nominated Hüseyin Tayfun İçli.[21]

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 in reply to an article of Bekir Coşkun, a columnist known for his opposition to the ruling AK Party.[22] Many people[who?] find this anti-democratic.[23][24]

Voting[edit]

After completion of the second round, Abdullah Gül was elected. The results are:

e • d Summary of the August 2007 Turkish presidential election candidates
Candidates Party 1st round
(20 August)
2nd round
(24 August)
3rd round
(28 August)
Abdullah Gül Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi) 341 337 339
Sabahattin Çakmakoğlu Nationalist Movement Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi) 70 71 70
Hüseyin Tayfun İçli Democratic Left Party (Demokratik Sol Parti) 13 14 13
Spoiled votes 1 0 2
Blank votes 23 24 23
Total MP turnout 448 446 448
Sources: Turkish Grand National Assembly online archives, newsobserver.com

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "New Turkey presidency row looms". BBC News. 14 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-19. 
  2. ^ "Aday Gül" (in Turkish). Hürriyet. 24 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  3. ^ "Genç Parti Gül’le görüşmeyecek!". Haberpan. 28 April 2007. Retrieved 2010-08-15. 
  4. ^ "'Tek adam' tepkisi" (in Turkish). Milliyet. 22 April 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-04-24. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  5. ^ "Yarbay's withdraw". Turkish Daily News. 28 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-28. 
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ [2]
  8. ^ http://arsiv.ntvmsnbc.com/news/406031.asp
  9. ^ [3] [4]
  10. ^ "Army 'concerned' by Turkey vote". BBC News. 2007-04-28. Retrieved 2010-05-26. 
  11. ^ Turkey's presidency vote annulled, BBC, Tuesday, 1 May 2007, 17:33 GMT
  12. ^ NTV-Msnbc 01.05.2007
  13. ^ HABER: Cumhurbaşkanlığı Seçim Süreci Resmen Sona Erdi haberi
  14. ^ "Turkish Parliament to begin selecting next president on May 1st". Southeast European Times. 5 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-25. 
  15. ^ http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/world/4851289.html
  16. ^ "Turkey lines up presidential poll". BBC News. August 10, 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-10. 
  17. ^ People's Daily Online - Turkey to elect new president without crisis: PM
  18. ^ "Turkey's Ruling AK Party nominates Abdullah Gul for president. More soon". BBC News. August 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-13. 
  19. ^ Today'S Zaman
  20. ^ Kayserili Gül’e MHP’den Kayserili rakip
  21. ^ DSP’nin cumhurbaşkanı adayı İçli
  22. ^ Coşkun, Bekir. "Çöl Yolcuları...". Hürriyet. Retrieved 2007-08-31. 
  23. ^ "Turkish PM attacked for telling Gul critics to leave" (– Scholar search). Retrieved 2007-08-27.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)[dead link][dead link]
  24. ^ Bekdil, Bural. "Pure, honest, 100% Tayyip Erdoğan" (– Scholar search). Turkish Daily News. Retrieved 2007-08-27. [dead link]