The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has nearly completed its work adapting the electoral law to the presidential system. Under the five main subsections, the new law is expected to bring critical changes to existing ones, from determining a new electoral threshold and limiting deputies' ability to shift parties.
According to Yeni Şafak daily, the commission, headed by AK Party's deputy head Hayati Yazıcı, plans to determine an electoral threshold that is in between 5% and 7%.
The 10% threshold and 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 1970s, and small or wing parties gained Cabinet powers far beyond their votes due to grisly coalition bargaining.
Despite the election threshold, the elections in 1991, 1995 and 1999 saw five parties taking seats in Parliament, bringing on an era of uninterrupted coalition government rule among various parties between 1991 and 2002. During this period, Turkey saw nine governments formed by four different prime ministers, two major economic meltdowns in 1994 and 2001, hyperinflation and devaluations. The country also saw an influx of domestic migration from eastern regions of the country amid the ceaseless terror attacks by the PKK and ongoing counterterrorism operations as well as a postmodern military coup in 1997 that forced the government to resign.
This tumultuous period was one of the main reasons that the AK Party and Erdoğan proposed a presidential system.
Decreasing the election threshold is a promise nearly every Turkish party, including the AK Party, has made while trying to win elections, but it has yet to be realized due to various reasons and excuses.
When it comes to the transfer of deputies between the political parties, the commission is reportedly planning to determine a period of time to limit such transfers. For instance, in the year of the runup to an election, deputies will not be allowed to switch political parties.
The AK Party also decided to add an article that allows all parties to have online congresses. It is reported that the party plans to establish an online polling system, which it refers to as “digital democracy” in case there is a pandemic or other similar conditions when it comes time to vote.
The draft of the law is expected to be presented to the AK Party Chairperson and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the upcoming days. In June, Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül said that revisiting and preparing a new election law would be both useful and necessary.
While preparing the new law, the AK Party has examined various systems in place in other countries, especially noting the transfer of deputies from one party to another. Although the new law is not expected to prevent deputies from shifting parties, it does exclude deputies that changed parties from the number that is required to form a party group within the assembly. “After the elections, the party groups shall be formed and stay that way for the rest of the term. If a deputy leaves one group and moves to another, he/she will not be included in the group number of his/her second party. Even if the party shifters’ number reaches 20, they will not be able to form a group. Their right to form a new group will be forbidden,” AK Party authorities previously told Hürriyet daily, adding that similar examples exist in Europe.
Another topic of discussion is the election threshold. Party sources reportedly stated that the threshold could likely be pushed back to 5%, although the ultimate decision lies in the president's hands.