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Turkey reduces its election threshold from 10 to 7 percent

Turkish Parliament

A view from the Turkish Parliament AFP

The Turkish Parliament has approved amendments to a law that reduces the country’s election threshold from 10 to 7 percent amid claims that the move is aimed at benefiting the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its election partner, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), according to Turkish media.

The amendments to the Election and Political Parties Law were pressed ahead earlier this month by the AKP and the MHP, which make up the Public Alliance, and came at a time of declining support for the AKP and with a growing number of public surveys showing the MHP remaining under the 10 percent threshold in a possible election.

The amendments were approved in parliamentary sessions held on Wednesday and Thursday thanks to the large number of AKP and MHP lawmakers holding seats in parliament.

Turkey is scheduled to hold presidential and general elections in 2023.

Following the passage of the amendments, political parties will no longer be required to establish a parliamentary group in order to run in the elections. According to the Political Parties Law, political parties that have 20 lawmakers can establish a group in parliament. Some small parties enlisted lawmakers from other parties in the past prior to the elections in order to be able to compete.

The new law, however, makes it obligatory for the political parties to have finalized their party organizations across 41 out of Turkey’s 81 provinces six months before the elections and having held their general congress.

The 10 percent election threshold, which was much higher than thresholds in democratic nations, has been a subject of criticism for years for being anti-democratic and an obstacle barring small parties from entering parliament. It was enacted following a military coup in 1980 and has remained in place despite calls to lower it.

The AKP has so far ignored the calls, saying it would pave the way for the establishment of coalition governments, from which, according to the party, Turkey suffered much in the past.

The AKP’s change in attitude about the election threshold comes at a time when public surveys show support for the AKP and its election partner, the MHP, in a downward trend, falling to as low as 38 percent from more than 50 percent.

The AKP-MHP alliance received 54 percent of the nationwide vote in the 2018 general election.

The lowering of the election threshold is expected to benefit the MHP, whose public support, which currently stands around 5 percent, according to surveys, was not adequate to push it over the former 10 percent threshold.

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