Strange election

On Sunday we will be voting for the fate of the democratic regime in Turkey.
I would like to share my views on this dramatic election for the last time.
I know the electoral history of Turkey pretty well. I would assert that no parliamentary election has been as critical as the election of June 7. The first democratic parliamentary election took place in 1950. Since that year, 17 such elections have been held. I can assure you that although the vote distribution was not always well forecast, the qualitative results of the elections have been quite predictable. In any of them the nature of the political regime has been questioned. It is well known that political regime changes in Turkey usually occur through different kinds of coups. Now, a great uncertainty in regards to a regime change is on the agenda. A regime change, if it occurs, will take Turkey far from democracy. The strange feature of the election is that a few hundred thousand votes might determine the outcome. On the one hand the 10 percent electoral threshold at the country level is there on the other hand the forecasts for the vote share of the Peoplesand’ Democratic Party (HDP), representing mainly the Kurdish political movement, revolve around the electoral threshold of 10 percent. If the HDP succeeds in getting a share of the vote of just over 10 percent, it will be able to win roughly 60 seats.
In this case it is impossible for the incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP) to win a referendum majority (over 330 seats). Indeed, in order to win this number of deputies the AKP needs to get more than 50 percent of the vote. No one, including the AKP, expects such a high performance for the incumbent party. On the other hand, if the HDP remains just under the electoral threshold, a large majority of deputies won by the HDP in electoral districts (roughly 50 out of 60) will be transferred to the AKP. This fact may seem very strange to foreign readers, although the transfer mechanism is not too complicated. The HDP is strongly settled in the southeast and east of Turkey as a party supported mainly by Kurdish electors. So, the large majority of parliamentary seats it is able to win are concentrated in the electoral districts belonging to these regions. On the other hand, there are only two effective parties there: the HDP and the AKP. So, if the HDP is not able to win more than 10 percent of the vote at the country level, the distribution of seats will be made among the three remaining parties: the AKP, the Republican Peopleand’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Since the CHP and the MHP have almost no electoral support in this part of Turkey, the AKP will get almost all the seats in the Kurdish regions. Imagine what would have happened in Great Britain during the last elections if the 10 percent threshold was valid there: The Scottish party that won 58 out of 59 seats in Scotland with less than 5 percent of the vote would have gotten zero seats at the end.
Letand’s go back to Turkey. There will probably be 44-45 million votes in the ballot boxes this Sunday. If some hundred thousand extra electors prefer the HDP, Turkey will be saved from the nightmare of a presidential system ala Turca. Moreover, the way to a new constitution based on parliamentary democracy and facilitating the solution to the Kurdish problem in the framework of the national assembly will be open. If not, the process aiming to establish a presidential system ala Turca will start. Given recent numerous examples of violations of the law and threats to press freedom, one should be afraid that this particular presidential system will be largely identical to the presidential systems reigning in Central Asia and the Middle East. Moreover, the fate of the Kurdish problem will be left in this case to secret bargaining between the Turkish state, Kurdistan Workersand’ Party (PKK) headquarters and Abdullah andOcalan, the leader of the PKK imprisoned on imrali for the past 16 years.
The strangeness of the June 7 election resides in the fact that the fate of democracy depends on the voting decisions of very few electors compared to the total number of Turkish citizens. The task of an electoral system in a democratic country is to reflect citizensand’ choices about the management of the country. This is not an easy task for sure. Among numerous electoral systems in practice in democratic countries some of them secure quite well the choices of the public while some others possess different failings. But I am absolutely sure that any democratic electoral system does not leave a radical change in the political regime to the preferences of a very small minority of electors, except the Turkish one.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman