Erdoğan eyes expansive national alliance before key polls in Turkey

Erdoğan eyes expansive national alliance before key polls in Turkey

Amid sound and fury over Turkey’s cross border “Operation Olive Branch” into the Afrin district of Syria, silent works on necessary amendments on the Election Law and Political Parties’ Law have almost been accomplished. A team made up of three lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will soon report back to the leaders of their parties, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Devlet Bahçeli, for the finalization of drafted changes.

Erdoğan and Bahçeli are expected to come together either late this week or next week to stamp the changes before they get sent to parliament. All this legislative work is planned to be concluded by the end of March.

As it has been reported earlier, the AKP-MHP rejected to reduce the current 10-percent national electoral threshold and accordingly developed a formula that would serve their needs the best. They have not included a more reasonable election threshold to their ongoing legislative work, although both of them had declared earlier that the 10-percent barrier was too high and needs to be decreased.

Of course, apart from the election threshold issue, the most important article of these amendments is the one that permits political parties to form pre-election alliances, excluding local elections slated for March 2019. This new system will be applicable during the presidential elections along with parliamentary polls.

One of the options being discussed for the parliamentary elections by the joint AKP-MHP commission is that each alliance to be formed will create its own logo to be printed on the ballot paper along with the symbols and mottos of its components under a title. For the AKP-MHP partnership, it could either be the “People’s Alliance” or “National Alliance.”

Voters will stamp on the symbol of the party of their choice but they will be accumulated under the alliance. Thus, all parties will know the percentage they get in polls and, therefore, with how many deputies they could be represented in parliament.

For the presidential elections, a special ballot paper will be printed. It will indicate the candidates and will specify which political party is backing which candidate. For example, if Erdoğan wants to run for president, the AKP and the MHP will appear on the ballot paper as two political parties supporting the candidate. If more parties are to support Erdoğan, they will also be listed on the ballot paper.

The legislative work on alliance does not introduce a restriction on the number of political parties that would take part in a political entity. President Erdoğan has already announced that both the Felicity Party (SP) and the Great Union Party (BBP) would also join the alliance. Therefore, the AKP-MHP group is drafting an expansive alliance model with an open door to any party that wishes to be represented in parliament, although in a symbolic way.

This system will sure spark fresh discussions about the principle of fair representation of the people in parliament. Any component of an alliance will gain seats in parliament although it stays below the 10-percent threshold while another party running independently for parliament will have no representation if it fails to win at least 10 percent. The SP and the BBP, both of which received less than one percent of the votes in the latest elections, will therefore be represented in parliament as an award in return for supporting Erdoğan’s bid for presidency.

The parties that agree to forge an alliance would first have to apply to the Supreme Election Board (YSK) to get registered before the parliamentary and presidential elections.

With expectations that both parliamentary and presidential elections may not be that far away, the AKP and the MHP are working hard to create ideal conditions for an ultimate victory for both fields.

The AKP’s objective is to secure Erdoğan’s presidency in the first round of presidential polls while securing a strong majority in the 600-seat parliament. The MHP and its leader Bahçeli, on the other hand, want to prolong their political existence by visibility in parliament.

With the awareness that every vote will count, the AKP-MHP partnership is seeking the best model for an expansive “National Alliance,” accompanied with an open-door policy to all like-minded minor political parties.

Serkan Demirtaş, hdn, Opinion