Gül was elected president in 2007, but there had been doubt over whether his term would last for five or seven years. Parliament still has to ratify the recommendation by its Constitutional Commission.
The change could be significant for the ambitions of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the most powerful politician in Turkey. Erdoğan's government plans to draft a new constitution to replace one drawn up after a military coup three decades ago, and he reportedly favors moving Turkey to a more presidential-style of government. There is speculation that Erdoğan wants to become president before his third and final term as prime minister ends in 2015.
However, the parliamentary commission's decision that the seven-year term only applies to Gül's presidency and that thereafter the term should be five years has not been met with a positive response from all camps. Opposition parties are firmly maintaining their stance that the provisions of a 2007 referendum, which decreased the presidential tenure from seven years to five, should apply to Gül.
Speaking to the press on Wednesday, the deputy chairman of the Republican People's Party (CHP), Gürsel Tekin, said the CHP was in no doubt that Gül's tenure should be five years.
“As far as we know, the presidential period is, as dictated by the Constitution, indisputably set at a period of five years. For a commission to decide any different is, as far as we are concerned, not possible,” he said, adding, “If a constitutional change is proposed, then of course it is possible, but it must be done following the proper procedure.”
Prior to becoming president, Gül had been foreign minister in Erdoğan's government. He was the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) first prime minister after it came to power in 2002, but stepped aside when Erdoğan, who had been barred by the courts from holding any government position, won a parliamentary seat in a by-election a year later. The confusion over the length of Gül's presidency stemmed from changes to the Constitution made after he was elected by Parliament in 2007. Gül had been elected for a one-time seven-year term as president, though there were already proposals, subsequently passed in the 2007 referendum, stipulating that the presidency should be for five years and for a maximum of two terms.
In the future, Turkey's president will be elected by the people instead of Parliament. When AK Party member Mustafa Şentop was asked after Tuesday's meeting if President Gül would be able to run for president, he replied, “No, he would not.”