The coalition of ruling parties in Turkey presented a proposal for major changes to the electoral system a mere 15 months before the coming elections. The proposal is expected to be accepted and enacted in the Turkish parliament with the votes of the two parties, the Justice and Development party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
While the proposal lowers the election threshold from 10 percent to 7, it also requires every political party -not an alliance of parties- to receive sufficient votes in a constituency to win a parliamentary seat.
The 10% election threshold was introduced by the military regime after the 1980 coup in Turkey and was essentially aimed at preventing pro-Kurdish parties from entering the parliament. The Kurdish candidates had to run individually throughout three decades until the elections in 2015 when the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) received more than 13% of the popular vote and entered the parliament as the party with the third largest parliamentary group.
As the current coalition partner MHP, a racist party with close ties to Turkish crime bosses, faced a diminishing support after it allied with the AKP and saw a substantial part of its supporter base slide towards breakaway Iyi Party, it recently became evident that it wouldn’t be able to pass the threshold in 2023. So, it is apparent that the intention for the new 7% threshold is for the MHP to retain its parliamentary existence.
The requirement for political parties to individually win in a constituency, on the other hand, is likely to bring an opposition alliance of six parties under heavy pressure. Four of the parties are small and do not have much prospect of winning individually in any constituency but they are needed to defeat the ruling coalition in the presidential elections.
Meral Danış Beştaş, the parliamentary co-chair of the HDP commented on the proposal, saying:
“This is a proposal prepared out of concern for their own survival. It’s a move against alliances (…) It’s not a democratic proposal. It’s sort of a confession, saying, ‘We’re being defeated, we’re falling from power.’ But no proposal can prevent their downfall.”
The founder and director of one of the most credible survey companies in Turkey, Özer Sencar, said on Twitter:
“The new legislation on the election system is likely to force small parties to run as CHP candidates [the main opposition Republican People’s Party]. In this case, one third of the popular support they have, which is about 5-6 percent, may turn in favour of AKP instead of voting for CHP. The new legislation is also likely to have an impact on who the presidential candidate for the opposition alliance will be. A third consequence will be MHP candidates forced to run under AKP in many provinces. So, it’s actually killing three birds with one stone.”