Government, MHP insist on keeping poll threshold clause

Government, MHP insist on keeping poll threshold clause

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Government, MHP insist on keeping poll threshold clause

Devlet Bahçeli (C), the leader of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and some other party members are seen at his party’s fast-breaking dinner meeting held in Ankara in this file photo. AA photo

Members of Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission have failed to agree on a new charter article regarding the election system in the country.

While the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) insisted in a panel meeting on Aug. 1 that the article should be kept as is, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) suggested that the article should be changed.

Article 67 of the current Constitution reads: “The electoral laws shall be drawn up in such a way as to reconcile the principles of fair representation and consistency in administration.” The reference to “consistency in administration” serves as the constitutional basis to have a 10 percent election threshold in the laws.

As Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says the threshold should be kept at 10 percent, the ruling AKP and MHP want to include the article without changes in the new charter. The two parties believe having a high threshold is necessary “to avoid a new era of coalition governments.”

However, the CHP and the BDP proposed to have an amended version of the article in the new charter to allow a lowering of the threshold. Their offer for the article is as follows: “Electoral laws shall be drawn up in such a way as to reconcile consistency in administration. However, under no condition should this harm the principles of fair representation.” In addition, the BDP offered to include a sentence stating “no election threshold can be applied in general and local elections.”

Since the parties failed to agree, the article could not be written.

CHP lawmaker Atilla Kart, a member of Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission, said a reference to the principles of fair representation would pave the way for the abolition of the 10 percent threshold.

“The consistency in administration is a relative term,” Kart said. “The AKP has been ruling the country for 11 years, but can we talk about consistency in regard to the social peace?”

No agreement on ‘freedom of expression’

The parties, meanwhile, failed to agree on articles regarding the freedom of expression and press. All parties agreed to include “everyone has the right to express and disseminate his thoughts and opinion” in the new charter, while the BDP opposed the clause stating that “the exercise of these freedoms may be restricted for the purposes of protecting national security.” The party also wanted the article to state that freedoms could be exercised “in the language the citizens prefer.”

Regarding the freedom of the press, all four parties agreed on the phrase “the press is free and an indispensable element of democracy, and shall not be censored.” The BDP’s offer to add a sub-article that stating “publishing in languages other than Turkish is regulated by laws” was not accepted by the other parties.

The members of the Commission also agreed to restructure the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). There will be two separate boards, one for the judges and one for the prosecutors, and the authority to elect members of the board will be given to Parliament instead of the current system, in which the judges and prosecutors directly vote for the members.

According to the agreed changes, Parliament will elect six members of the judges’ board among candidates proposed by the Supreme Court of Appeals and judges of the State Council. The remaining five will be elected from among academics and lawyers. For the prosecutors board, which will have seven members, one member each will be elected from the Supreme Court of Appeals and the State Council, two will be elected from among candidates offered by the prosecutors, and the rest will elected directly by Parliament.

Kart said the proposed changes to the HSYK are in line with the proposals of the Venice Commission.