Demirtas to challenge Erdogan's presidential candidacy with election authority

Jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas has said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not legally eligible to run in the upcoming presidential election and that he will challenge his candidacy with the country’s election authority.

Demirtas said on his Twitter account, which is managed by his lawyers, that Erdogan 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 Erdogan's candidacy.

“Is Erdogan a king that the laws don’t apply to him? Pardon me, but I don’t care about kings,” Demirtas said, adding that Erdogan'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 Erdogan is eligible to run in the 2023 presidential election were reignited after Erdogan recently 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.

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.

Erdogan 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 Erdogan's completion or not of university has been ongoing since 2014.

Demirtas said the YSK approving Erdogan'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 Erdogan and his party while making decisions against opposition parties and politicians.

Demirtas's statements came in response to controversial remarks from main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who said his party is not challenging Erdogan's candidacy because they think it is doomed to be a failed attempt.

Kilicdaroglu said all YSK members are appointed by Erdogan and that it’s unlikely for them to make a decision against Erdogan'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 Erdogan in the election.

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