Gov’t launches major work to overhaul entire election system

Gov’t launches major work to overhaul entire election system

The reopening of the country has also re-energized the political life in Turkey as parliament has resumed its works and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has returned to Ankara. There are currently a number of critical matters on the agenda of the government and the political parties that would shape the political environment in the coming period.

The sudden dismissal of three opposition lawmakers is atop these matters for now. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which lost one seat, and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which lost two seats in parliament, blamed the presidency for the move as Parliament Speaker Süreyya Sadi Bilgiç read a final order on the cases about these three MPs upon a motion submitted to parliament by the presidency.

The CHP officials argue that even the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) lawmakers were unaware of the fact that the final order would be read in Parliament on that day, describing this incident as the latest evidence on the executive power’s intervention on the legislation.

Both the CHP and the HDP are conducting internal consultations on how to respond to the move. It seems CHP and chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu are opting for a cautious reaction in order to control the reaction of the party roots against the ruling AKP. The main opposition’s officials consider Istanbul MP Enis Berberoğlu’s dismissal as yet another provocation by the AKP to push the CHP followers to hit the streets and cause unrest.

The HDP will likely be more active as co-leader Mithat Sancar believes that this latest move is a blunt manifestation of the AKP’s intentions to get rid of the HDP. The party is planning to organize two simultaneous marches to Ankara, one from Edirne and the other from Hakkari, starting from mid-June. Needless to say, these marches will escalate tension between the HDP and the government.

The second important issue being discussed in the Turkish capital is a potential cabinet reshuffle. President Erdoğan has reportedly made important deliberations in the last week with his senior aides about the works of the government. He will be off this week for a short vacation where he will ponder on whether to continue with the same team or replace a few of them.

One important parameter will be the upcoming elections for the office of the parliament speaker. Sitting Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop will fulfill his two-year term by July and the elections for the remaining three years will be held in early July. There have long been speculations that Erdoğan’s right-arm man, Binali Yıldırım, who had to resign from the office of the speaker to run for Istanbul in the 2019 local polls, would return to his original seat.

In that case, Şentop would be appointed to another job, probably to a governmental position, most likely as the justice minister.

This government will soon enter its second year and it would be not much surprising to see changes within the government. That would also include re-structuring some ministries by separating the Family, Labor and Social Services Ministry and Culture and Tourism Ministry. As usual, the last word when it comes to such important adjustments belongs to Erdoğan.

While all these are happening, the AKP’s central decision-making body, at a meeting under the leadership of Erdoğan last week, decided to form a special commission to amend Turkey’s entire election acquis in line with the executive-presidential system.

The commission will be chaired by deputy leader Hayati Yazıcı and other senior AKP officials, including Ali İhsan Yavuz, Hamza Dağ and deputy parliamentary group leaders, Özlem Zengin and Bülent Turan.

The setting up of the commission comes after a recently launched debate over the laws on the political parties and elections by the AKP’s main political ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The AKP’s work is aiming to expand the scope of the MHP’s complaints about these two key laws with a special emphasis on impeding the transfer of lawmakers, complicating procedures for the new parties to enter the elections and etc.

The AKP’s commission will work through the summer to draft a drastic overhaul of both the political parties’ law and election law so that a substantial package can be brought to parliament in the fall.

Reducing the 10 percent election threshold to five percent is one of the options discussed at the ruling party with the plans of keeping the small parties, i.e. Ahmet Davutoğlu’s Future Party, Ali Babacan’s Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) or Temel Karamollaoğlu’s Felicity (Saadet) Party, off parliament although they run in the elections as part of an alliance. Increasing the number of constituencies especially in the large metropoles is also on the table.

All these signal a hectic and tense period ahead for Turkish politics, in the aftermath of a three-month lockdown due to the pandemic.