Opposition CHP submits bill to reduce election threshold to 3 percent

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has submitted a bill that seeks to lower the threshold in general elections to 3 percent, in a move that came after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently announced that the ruling party was working on introducing a first-past-the post (FPP) model.

In the bill presented on Monday, CHP Deputy Chairman Sezgin Tanrikulu underlined the fact that the Turkish election law far from assures the fair representation in Parliament of various segments of society due to a 10 percent election threshold.

Noting that the current proportional representation election model does not ensure fair representation due to the very high election threshold, which he believes is the biggest obstacle to fair representation in Turkey, Tanrikulu said, “It is essential that a fairer election threshold be determined, that it [should] become 3 percent.”

Criticizing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) for promoting democracy in discourse while so far turning a deaf ear to demands to lower the threshold, the CHP deputy chair said, “The high number of parties that would be represented in Parliament [if there were a lower threshold] will not introduce turmoil, but rather multiple voices, which is a sine qua non of democracy.”

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that the government has been working to change the electoral system to an FPP model, a system that favors the strongest party in elections. The new model would allow the ruling party to increase its number of deputies even if its votes were to shrink further in the general elections scheduled to be held in June next year.

If the new model were to go into effect, one single deputy would be elected in each electoral constituency, while the election threshold would also be abolished. In the new FPP system, Turkey would be divided into 550 constituencies. The candidate obtaining the largest share of the vote in a given constituency would be elected to Parliament, while candidates from other political parties would simply be eliminated — even if one of them were to have gotten a single vote less than the winner.

The FPP system was in use in Turkey between 1950 and 1960, which produced unfair results in favor of the majority party in terms of political representation in Parliament.

Tanrikulu had previously submitted a bill to lower the election threshold to 3 percent back in March of last year. But the government blocked the proposal from being brought onto Parliament’s agenda at the time.

The 10 percent threshold came into force when the Sept. 12, 1980 coup regime adopted the 1982 Constitution. The military regime argued that political instability had occurred because the Political Parties Law in force at the time lacked an election threshold. As a result, small parties have no chance of winning seats in Parliament today, as political parties obtaining less than 10 percent of the total vote in elections are denied representation in Parliament.

The majority of the Council of Europe member states, with combined electoral systems as opposed to proportional ones, have a legal threshold of between 4 and 5 percent. Countries using the proportional system have a threshold of between 3 and 5 percent. In addition to Turkey, Russia is another exception, with a threshold of 7 percent and Georgia, where it is 8 percent. The Council of Europe, of which Turkey is a member, encourages member states to lower the threshold to 3 percent. “In stable democracies, legal thresholds over 3 percent are hardly justifiable,” said a Council of Europe parliamentary assembly report from January 2010.