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Erdoğan’s nationalist ally against easing absolute majority rule in presidential elections

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The leader of a far-right party who is also an election ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has expressed his objection to Erdoğan’s plans to amend the constitution to ease the election of the president by removing the requirement for an absolute majority, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahçeli, who spoke at his party’s parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday, said there has been no change in his party’s stance on the need for an absolute majority, which requires a presidential candidate to get more than 50 percent of the nationwide vote for election to the top state post.

“This is not about electing lawmakers, mayors or muhtars [neighborhood heads]. It is about electing a president who will represent the entire nation,” Bahçeli said, adding that “50 percent+1 is the backbone, the core and security of the system.”

It was one of the rare moments when Bahçeli, a strong supporter of Turkey’s transition from a parliamentary system to a presidential system of governance in 2017, disagreed with Erdoğan. They have been part of the “Public Alliance” since 2018 against an opposition bloc of parties, known as the “Nation Alliance.”

Erdoğan needs support from the MHP as well as smaller parties in parliament to secure the 360 votes — three-fifths of the legislature — necessary to move forward with the constitutional amendment, which would then have to be put to a referendum. Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) holds 264 seats in parliament, while the MHP has 50.

Erdoğan, who was elected president again in a runoff election held in May, brought the issue of easing the rules for electing the president on Saturday to the public agenda when he was returning from a visit to Germany.

He said he thinks changing the 50 percent+1 rule in presidential elections would be appropriate and would help conclude the election process more quickly. He claimed that the 50 percent+1 rule is forcing the political parties to seek new alliances and “take wrong paths” just to have their candidates elected.

Erdoğan was elected president for the first time under the parliamentary system in 2014. His election as head of state in 2018 was under the presidential system of governance, which granted him vast powers. In 2018 Erdoğan was able to garner 50 percent+1 of the vote, or 53 percent, in the election and there was no need to hold a runoff.

A runoff had to be held in the presidential election in May because neither Erdoğan nor his rival, opposition’s candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, was able to pass the 50 percent threshold.

Opposition parties uneasy 

Following Bahçeli, two opposition parties also voiced their objections on Tuesday to Erdoğan’s plans to amend the constitution to ease the rules for the election of the president.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Özgür Özel accused the AKP and the MHP of keeping the nation’s agenda busy with talk about the change of the constitution. He said his party will not give any support to such a constitutional amendment.

Co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP) Tuncer Bakırhan said although the AKP and the MHP promoted the presidential system of governance, claiming that it will bring peace and democracy to the country and end poverty, now they are in conflict over it.

He said the AKP and the MHP are about to demolish a system they established five years ago. Bakırhan said every system that does not take into account the needs of the people is doomed to fail.

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