Turkey’s president on Friday vetoed an amendment to the constitution that would have led to the direct election of his successor in the latest move to keep a former Islamist from becoming head of state.
The government, which has its roots in political Islam, proposed the change after failing to get parliament to appoint Abdullah Gul, foreign minister, to the post. Turkey’s military objected to his candidacy because of his Islamist background, initiating the country’s most serious political crisis in a decade.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, had hoped to be able to hold a presidential election alongside the general election that is due on July 22. As well as now making that highly unlikely, the forceful vetoing of the entire constitutional amendment package also deepens the rift between the government and Turkey’s secular political and judicial forces.
Mr Erdogan and Ahmet Necdet Sezer, the outgoing president, both attended a military display on Friday in Izmir, a city on Turkey’s Aegean coast. Television news reports said neither man said a word to the other despite sitting side by side for around four hours.
Mr Sezer, who is a former judge and a staunch secularist, said in his veto statement that there was “no justification for the amendment” to the constitution because a directly elected president would contradict the notion of sovereignty and “create problems for the regime”. As well as having a directly elected president, the package proposed allowing an incumbent to serve two five-year terms rather than one seven-year term as is the case now.
In Turkey, the term “regime” usually refers to the existing, secular constitutional settlement.
The amendment will now go back to parliament. But with MPs in election mode, and the existing legislature running out of both time and credibility, it remains uncertain what Mr Erdogan will do next.
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