The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and its alliance partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), are preparing to submit an amendment for the Election and Political Parties Law to Parliament by the beginning of March. The bill, including an amendment of reducing the 10% election threshold to 7%, is expected to be presented to Parliament as a narrow-scoped proposal of 10-15 articles.
The law amendment efforts that the AK Party and the MHP have been working on with the aim of being implemented in the next election are now complete. Speaking to BBC Turkish, a senior executive on the team carrying out the work at the AK Party said that they would first evaluate the proposal they prepared with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and work out the final version with the MHP. However, according to AK Party officials who want an electoral system based on narrow or constricted electoral districts, there is no need to "expect too much" about the bill, as the two parties have yet to reach a consensus on several issues.
According to the information provided by the AK Party, the most important regulation of the proposal will be the lowering of the existing election threshold. The new threshold will be proposed to Parliament as 7%, as stated for the first time by Erdoğan and later "finalized" with the statement of MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli.
The current 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. Despite the fact that the AK Party has promised to adjust the threshold several times over the last decade, no steps have been taken so far on the issue.
Although electoral alliances are not a legal obligation in the presidential system, they have become "mandatory" in terms of the political picture and the threshold has been a "de facto reset." It is emphasized that Parliament can decide on the amendment of the bill and the rate may change if a "convincing attitude is put forward."
It was also reported that, at the request of Bahçeli, who was reacting to the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) "lending" 15 deputies to guarantee the Good Party's (IP) participation in the 2018 elections, formulas for "preventing the transfer of deputies" were also on the agenda. The AK Party has also included an amendment in the draft proposal that will prevent political parties from "gaining the qualification to enter the elections by forming a group in Parliament through the transfer of deputies." In the current system, in order for a political party to qualify for elections, it is required that it has established offices in more than half of the country's 81 provinces or that it has a group in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM). The draft proposal will not include the option to "find a group." Thus, there will be no need to transfer deputies to participate in elections. According to the recent law, a newly established party must have 20 deputies to form a parliamentary group.
Before elections in 2018, for instance, 15 deputies resigned from the CHP and joined the IP to grant the latter the right to participate in the snap elections as the nascent party did not meet the requirements to participate in the polls. The deputies returned to the CHP after the elections, and it was a move that was strongly criticized by the AK Party and the MHP. The new law will not completely block such strategies.
One of the reasons the AK Party and MHP introduced the Election and Political Parties Law to the Parliament's agenda in the first months of the new year is cited as "to prevent early election debates." According to the Constitution, changes made in election laws cannot be applied to elections held within one year of the date they go into effect. If Parliament decides to hold elections with the required majority, the elections can be held within the one-year time frame without the implementation of the new changes.
Erdoğan recently again dismissed the opposition’s calls for snap polls and said elections would be held as scheduled in 2023. His remarks came in response to the CHP-led Nation Alliance’s demands to hold snap polls. The opposition alliance had also been requesting a return to the parliamentary system.