[JURIST] The Turkish parliament opened debate Monday on an amendment to the Turkish constitution [text] that would see the country's president elected by a popular vote rather than by members of parliament, as is current practice. The move comes the day after sole presidential candidate Abdullah Gul [official website; JURIST news archive], currently Turkey's foreign minister, ended his candidacy [AP report] when opposition lawmakers refused to participate in a second parliamentary vote. Gul did not say if he might run in a general election. The first round of presidential balloting [JURIST report], held late last month, was annulled [JURIST report] by the country's Constitutional Court because a two-thirds quorum of legislators did not participate in the vote as required by the constitution.
The ruling Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish; Wikipedia backgrounder] said last week it would push for constitutional amendments [JURIST report] to change Turkey's system for electing the president. Gul's candidacy has been opposed by the Republican People's Party (CHP) [Wikipedia backgrounder] and the military over concerns that Gul would not be entirely secular. Gul said Sunday that the deadlock in parliament meant that the Turkish people should elect the new president directly. In addition to requiring a popular vote in presidential elections, the constitutional amendment being debated would shorten the presidential term from seven to five years, would allow presidents to serve multiple terms, would set the quorum for a vote to pass legislation in parliament at 184, and would mandate that general elections be held every four years, instead of the current five-year requirement. Parliamentary elections are currently set for July 22, and if the constitutional amendment is passed, presidential elections could be held at the same time. AP has more.