CHP counters alliance bill with proposal to remove electoral threshold

emAA Photo/em
AA Photo

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) submitted a draft bill on Friday for the abolishment of the 10 percent national election threshold for legislative elections as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) finalize works on a draft bill for electoral alliances.

The draft bill, prepared by CHP deputy group chairmen Engin Altay, Özgür Özel and Engin Özkoç, argued that the 10 percent election threshold is one of the most important problems in Turkey as it prevents fair representation in Parliament.

The bill also noted that Parliamentary democracy, separation of powers and the rule of law should be strengthened and the presidency's powers should be brought under the limits of a parliamentary democracy.

The party said that such a change would also provide a lasting solution to searches for electoral alliances.

Lowering the election threshold had been among the election promises of nearly every party in Turkey in the past, including the AK Party, however, it has not yet been realized due to various reasons and excuses.

In November, MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli called for the re-evaluation of the 10 percent national election threshold in contrast with the MHP's traditional stance of keeping the threshold high to prevent minor left-wing and Kurdish separatist parties from entering Parliament.

The pro-PKK Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), the fourth party in Parliament formed as an alliance of a pro-PKK political party and several other far-left, liberal and green groups, is traditionally against the idea of a high election threshold since it considers itself as its main target.

However, the electoral alliance bill submitted Wednesday does not foresee lowering the threshold but allows smaller parties to enter Parliament in an alliance formed before the elections.

The AK Party and the MHP combined have 352 seats in Parliament, which falls short of the 367 deputies required for constitutional changes to be directly approved in Parliament. Proposals receiving up to 330 votes could be taken to a referendum for approval, but it is not clear whether the AK Party and the MHP would use that card shortly ahead of the local, Parliamentary and presidential elections in 2019.

A constitutional reform package including a switch to the presidential system, backed by both parties, was narrowly approved in a referendum on April 16, 2017 with 51.2 percent of the votes.

The 10 percent threshold, along with the highest averages method known as the D'Hondt method, were introduced with the 1982 Constitution, which was adopted in a referendum after the 1980 military coup. The main aim of the threshold was to prevent political instability as the former system of proportional representation introduced with the 1961 Constitution led to fragile coalition governments in the 1970's, and small or wing parties, gained cabinet powers far beyond their votes due to gruesome coalition bargaining.

However, the bill also led to unfair representation in Parliament. The most extreme case was the 2002 elections, in which only the AK Party and main opposition CHP managed to pass the 10 percent election threshold to secure seats in Parliament with 53.6 percent of the votes combined, whereas 46.3 percent of the votes could not be represented. While the AK Party managed to take 66 percent of the total 550 seats in Parliament with only 34.3 percent of the votes, the CHP secured the remaining seats with only 19.3 percent of the votes. There were five parties with votes over five percent which were left out of Parliament.

Whereas for pro-Kurdish or pro-PKK political parties, the solution to overcome the election threshold was independent candidates in eastern and southeastern provinces where the population is predominantly Kurdish. They managed to successfully apply this strategy in a larger scale in the 2007 and 2011 elections. Ahead of the 2015 elections, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), the latest of such parties, became the main party in HDP, which managed to pass the threshold with 13.7 and 10.7 percent of the votes in the June 7 and November 1, 2015 elections, respectively.
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