Things took an interesting turn in Turkey as president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday that the election system could be changed through a parliamentary debate and vote.
His comments come just 24 hours after his coalition partner, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli, spoke strongly in favour of the current system which requires a simple majority of the popular vote for the election of the president.
“The democratic legitimacy of this system is based on a vote of 50 percent plus one. Pay attention, we are not electing a member of the parliament. We are not electing a mayor either. We are electing the president who will represent the whole people,” he said, and went on with a criticism of a senior presidential advisor who recently voiced his concerns about the current system.
“Cemil Çiçek, a member of the Presidential High Advisory Board, claims that the requirement for an absolute majority will cause serious trouble and drive Turkey into chaos. Mr. Çiçek, do you have a particular percentage in your mind? Or is it under your tongue; something you are keeping to yourself? If you do, when are you going to let it be known? Say it, so we will all know what you’re trying to do.”
President Erdoğan’s comment then came soon afterwards as he responded to a question from a journalist who asked what he thought about a change in the election system.
“The authority for such issues, especially for issues concerning such a constitutional change, is with the parliament. If the parliament decides to make changes on this issue, then steps are taken accordingly. The parliament had earlier made a decision on this constitutional issue. We’ll see if it will make a new decision or not.”
The two then had a short and unexpected meeting in the evening after which no official statements were made.
While recent polls indicate a constant decline in popular support for Erdoğan and signals a defeat under the current electoral system, the requirement for an absolute majority is key to the strategic position Bahçeli and his party have been enjoying since 2018 as Erdoğan has never had a chance of winning without the latter’s support.