Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said there are no legal hurdles in way of his presidential candidacy for the upcoming elections, dismissing the opposition bloc’s claim that he cannot run.
“There are no legal obstacles in way of my candidacy for the 2023 elections. It is in accordance with the law and the constitution and the opposition bloc’s statements claiming I can’t run for elections attempt to muddy the waters,” he said in an exclusive interview with TRT on Wednesday.
He said his administration is preparing Türkiye to become a global power with its massive infrastructure investments.
“The Turkish Century is the name of the period when Türkiye will be one of the most prominent countries in the world with the power and experience it has gained in the last period,” he said.
Erdogan underlined that the presidential system has made Türkiye a more stable country and said that Türkiye should not go back to the unstable days of coalition years.
But “our doors are open to anyone wishing to serve our nation,” he added.
“Our nation has seen what we’ve done in past two decades. We aim to be a global power and it is what our people want,” he said.
On desecration of Quran, NATO, Ukraine conflict
In an hour-long interview, Erdogan also said that Türkiye expects “sincere steps from Sweden in the fight against Islamophobia,” urging Sweden, Finland to fully comply with commitments in tripartite memorandum signed last year.
Tensions have mounted after Danish-Swedish extremist Rasmus Paludan last week burned copies of the Quran on two separate occasions, first outside the Turkish Embassy in Sweden and then in front of a mosque in Denmark.
Paludan also said he would burn the Muslim holy book every Friday until Sweden is admitted to the NATO alliance.
Edwin Wagensveld, a far-right Dutch politician and leader of the Islamophobic group Pegida, also tore out pages from a copy of the Quran in The Hague and then burned its torn-out pages in a pan, as posted in an Internet video.
Erdogan has repeatedly stressed that said that Sweden should not expect Türkiye’s support for its NATO membership after the incident.
“Despite warnings, Sweden turned blind eye to burning of Quran and police protected perpetrators. Hate crimes against Muslims is not acceptable,” Erdogan said, adding “Apology from Sweden won’t fix issues.”
Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO in May, abandoning decades of military non-alignment, a decision spurred by Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
Any country joining NATO requires the unanimous approval of member states.
But Türkiye – a NATO member for more than 70 years – voiced objections, accusing the two countries of tolerating and even supporting terror groups, including the PKK.
In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organisation by Türkiye, the US and EU – has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants.
Sweden and Finland had previously committed to joining the alliance together.
On Ukraine conflict, Erdogan said talks with leaders of Ukraine and Russia are continuing ” and will continue for lasting peace.”
But he said sending tanks and weapons would not fix issue and will only fill pockets of weapon producers.
On tensions with Greece, Erdogan said it is not possible for Ankara to sit with its hands tied against actions “threatening our security.”
“Greece is upset that we are gaining global prominence,” he said, warning Athens is arming islands in contravention to international law.
Six-party group’s opposition
In a joint statement on Monday, the six-party group, composed of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Good (IYI) Party, Felicity Party (SP), Future Party (GP), Democrat Party (DP), and Democracy and Progress (DEVA) Party, underlined that since Erdogan was elected president in 2014 and 2018, he, therefore, could not run for a third time.
“In line with the provisions of the Constitution and the law, which leave no room for perplexity, it is not possible for Erdogan to be a candidate in the elections to be held on May 14, unless parliament decides to renew elections,” the statement said.
Article 3 of Türkiye’s Presidential Election Law says that if the assembly decides to renew elections in the second term of a president, he or she may stand for reelection one more time.
Erdogan’s Justice and Development (AK) Party and its ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have made it clear that the counter began when Türkiye switched to the presidential form of government in 2017, making the president eligible for another term.
Türkiye switched to a new government system with the 2018 elections.
“So in that respect, it reset the stopwatch. The president elected in 2018 was the first president of the new system, by reason, law, and de facto,” President Erdogan said on Saturday.