Changing the election system may open the door to presidential system

Changing the election system may open the door to presidential system

The new democracy package that was announced last week initiated a debate in Turkey about a possible change in the election system. This last step of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan looks as if it is harmonious with his intentions to be a president at a presidential system. 

In the proposal package issued by the prime minister, the case of lowering the election threshold to 5 percent is a prerequisite to certain conditions on the amendment of the election system. One of the proposals of Erdoğan is single seat constituency system; the other is the narrowed electoral constituency system where maximum five deputies are elected. 

In this respect, Erdoğan looks as if he is responding to the inequality created by the election threshold of 10 percent, the highest in Europe; actually he is making a move that carries the potential to redesign the entire system. The reasons for this is that both models, especially the narrowed electoral constituency system, possess features that will provide benefits and that have serious advantages for the ruling party. 

Professor Seyfettin Gürsel, Director of Bahçeşehir University’s Center for Economic and Social Research (BETAM) has significant work on election systems. Gürsel’s article titled, “Reform in the Election System” was published in daily Radikal on Oct. 1.

Professor Gürsel has made a simulation to give an idea how the maximum five seat narrowed electoral constituency system would affect the sharing of seats. In this simulation, Professor Gürsel pulled the ruling Justice and Democracy Party (AK Party) votes to 45 percent, Republican People’s Party (CHP) votes to 26 percent, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to 13 percent and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) to 6 percent, with SP and DP remaining below the threshold. 

When these voting rates are taken as a base, the AK Party, which will receive 308 seats if the current election system is applied, will raise its seats in the Parliament to 337 in the narrowed electoral constituency model. CHP, on the other hand, while able to obtain 147 seats in the current system, will lose six seats to end up with 141 seats. It will be MHP that will be affected the most from the amendment. While it can have 60 seats with the present system, its seats drop to 40 with the proposed system. BDP goes down to 32 from 35. 

The most important consequence of this picture is that the AK Party will have 337 deputies, safely above the minimum required threshold of 330 deputies to be able to change the constitution alone. Besides, Professor Gürsel has assumed that the AK Party will receive 45 percent of the votes. In the case that it receives around 50 percent of the votes, then the party will raise its number of deputies to a much higher extent. 

The probable amendments Erdoğan is able to introduce to the 2839 numbered Deputy Election Law that went into effect in 1983 could be the key to open the door to a presidential model that is his biggest political aim. The most important critical question here is while Erdoğan is taking such a critical step to this extent, whether he will opt for consensus or he will act merely based on Parliamentary majority. 

In democracies, it is essential that crucial constitutional changes are based on a wide social consensus. It is not difficult to assume that it would cause serious turbulence in Turkey to opt for first changing the election law based on Parliamentary majority without seeking consensus, and after that, head toward a system change again with a majoritarian perception. 

Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this abridged piece was published on Oct. 9. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.