The alliance package and beyond
As commentators focus on the alliance between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) and its political consequences, the content of the 26-article legislative package, which is currently on the parliamentary agenda, continues to baffle and perplex.
For some time, I have desired to read a satisfactory analysis or join a detailed discussion on this topic. An event organized by the Checks and Balances Network, which is joined and supported by hundreds of NGOs in Istanbul, has given me an opportunity.
The Checks and Balances Network will soon publicize the debates and conclusions of the meeting titled “Checks and Balances in the New Presidential System.”
I would like to share my own conclusions from a talk with Erol Tuncer, one of the “Electoral System Table” speakers, and from an analysis made by the Social Economic and Political Research Foundation (TESAV) on the package.
10 critical changes
Firstly, let us have a look at the proposals in the package.
Any articles that prevent political parties from forming alliances will be removed from the laws.
The phrase “allied parties” will be added to the laws regarding candidates, counting and numbers of deputies.
The electoral districts, which have not changed since 1950, will be redefined and narrowed.
Since 1950, the balloting committee chairs were chosen among the electorate. When the package is approved, they will be selected among civil servants by lot.
Ballot boxes and electoral areas could be combined after the changes go into effect.
Any party member can take place in another party’s candidate list without ending his/her party membership.
Separate ballot boxes will be set for disabled people.
Even if there is no seal on the ballot envelopes they will be considered as valid.
In the present situation, only the balloting committee chairs have the authority to call the police and the gendarmerie to the polling room.
After the changes all voters will be able to do so.
Fair representation at risk
The TESAV criticizes the package in some points. First of all, despite permitting alliances, the 10-percent election threshold remains.
The political parties in an alliance can win seats in parliament even with 0.5 percent of the votes, while a political party with a vote of 9.99 percent cannot. In this regard, the principle of fair representation is undermined.
Since the D’Hondt method will be used to count the votes, the allied parties will get more seats than they would without joining an alliance. Thus allied parties will win more seats while those who steer clear of alliances will lose seats. For instance, if the AKP and MHP had formed an alliance in the 2015 elections, they would have taken 10 more seats than they have now.
The balloting committee chairs selected among the civil servants can act on behalf of the ruling party, especially in the time of an emergency rule such as this one.
Allowing unsealed envelopes and ballot papers to be valid may open the door to those who put envelopes, including pre-signed papers, into the voting system.
People who live in the same building can vote in different places. This change, together with the narrowed electoral areas, can legalize political parties carrying voters to areas where they are weaker.
Short term thinking versus foresight
The full suffrage, right to vote and run as a candidate, is one of the key points of a nation of free people as opposed to a nation whose people serve the rulers slavishly.
To strengthen these rights, the Electoral Law and the Law on Political Parties, which constitute the backbone of the voting system, should be changed immediately. It is an undeniable fact.
However, changes based on short term results and advantages can cause fatal damages to our democracy in the long term.
Both the governing and opposition parties should act with a foresight that transcends the rough and tumble of politics. The opposition parties should patiently put forward their constructive criticisms and proposals and the government should consider their content carefully without prejudice.