AKP and MHP tweak the election system, will it avert disaster for Erdogan?

After months of elaborations, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and their allies, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), on Monday put forward a draft bill to amend the election law.  The bill is widely seen as an attempt to maximize seats for the Republic Alliance partners AKP-MHP, amidst a seemingly irreversible decline in polls.  While the gerrymandering is insidiously clever, it is not clear whether it  will achieve the intended objective.


According to the bill, the election threshold will be lowered from 10 to 7 percent, an expected change that will have little to no effect on the situation in the parliament, reports an article by BiaNet.


The opposition’s initial reaction that the move intends to save the MHP is misleading as the threshold applies to alliances and not to each party forming an alliance, according to both the current law and the new proposal. Thus, the MHP is in no danger of losing parliamentary representation.


The two allies had already announced their intention to lower the threshold in September, but what took months was apparently the fine adjustments that would supposedly maximize the number of their seats in the parliament.


In order to achieve this goal, the law proposal changes the rules determining the number of seats won by each party in a polling district.


According to the current law, seats are first distributed to alliances in proportion to their respective voting rates and then distributed within alliances. The new bill takes alliances out of the equation to distribute seats directly to the parties proportionally, which would provide an advantage to the AKP and the MHP’s People’s Alliance.


For example, in the 2018 elections in Niğde, a province with three seats in the parliament, the People’s Alliance won two seats with 64.36 percent of the votes and the opposition Nation’s Alliance got one seat with a voting rate of 33.2 percent.


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However, if the seats were distributed in accordance with the voting rates of the parties rather than the alliances, all three seats would be won by the People’s Alliance parties; two seats for the AKP and one seat for the MHP.


If the 2018 elections were held under this system, the People’s Alliance would win 36 more seats than it did while the Nation’s Alliance would win 44 seats less, according to a calculation cited by Tanju Tosun, a political scientist, on Twitter.


Nevertheless,  it remains to be seen whether things will go as planned for the ruling alliance with their public support being significantly lower than it was in the last election.


In 2018, the combined voting rates of the AKP and the MHP was 53.66 percent whereas it is barely over 40 percent now, according to most opinion polls. Only one pollster in February found that the People’s Alliance would get more than 45 percent of the votes.


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The opposition has many tools to by-pass the restrictions of the proposed bill. For instance, smaller parties like DP, SP, Deva and Gelecek could nominate their candidates in CHP and IYP slates.  In three major cities, Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir where each districts sends a dozen or more congresspeople to the parliament, the law loses its effectiveness.


In general, the junior partner MHP is expected to lose a significant number of seats, as its average poll rating declined 7.5%, and it dropped to 5th rank among contending parties, from 3rd in the last elections.


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Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and www.paraanaliz.com and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.