Parliament without HDP a democratic problem: EP rapporteur

Parliament without HDP a democratic problem: EP rapporteur

Serkan Demirtaş - ANKARA
Parliament without HDP a democratic problem: EP rapporteur

DHA Photo

The possibility that the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) will not pass the 10 percent threshold to enter Turkey’s parliament would be regarded as a “democratic problem,” European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey has said, while expressing growing concerns over pressure on the media in Turkey. 

“Now that the HDP has decided to run as a party, of course the big question is, ‘Will it pass or will it not pass this 10 percent threshold?’ That is, for me, one of the key elements for the elections,” Kati Piri, the EP’s rapporteur on Turkey, told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview on May 27 in Ankara. 

“Turkish citizens should of course themselves decide who they vote for, which party they vote for, but in case by a small margin the HDP does not pass the threshold, it still means that a lot of Turkish citizens will not be represented in the new parliament. That would be for me a democratic problem. So I very much hope that in the future that the new government will look again at this high threshold,” she said. 

The 10 percent election threshold that Turkey imposed in 1982 is the highest barrier on the European continent and despite national and international calls, the Turkish political system has failed to reduce it to a lower level. The HDP and its predecessors opted to run for parliament through independent candidates in previous elections but decided to run as a party in the June 7 polls for the first time. 

“What is different with this election is that [there is an] extra lot of attention on it because it’s the first time the HDP has decided to run as a party. You know that the European Parliament has always been critical, just like the Council of Europe has been, about this 10 percent election threshold,” Piri said. 

Piri has embarked on a five-day tour to Turkey, where she will visit Ankara, Diyarbakır, İzmir and Istanbul on the very eve of the elections, although her primary reason is to hold talks with political parties, media, citizens, nongovernmental organizations and academics about the European Parliament’s report on Turkey.  

Piri denied claims that the voting on the report was postponed because of Turkish elections and after talks with Turkish officials, stressing that the parliament wanted to allow more time for in-depth discussion on 30 new amendments to the report. 

Attacks should be well-probed

Piri drew attention to the issue of security, underlining that recent violence against the election bureaus of political parties and politicians had not gone unnoticed at the European Parliament. 

“I very much hope and I am sure that it’s in the interest of all the parties, including the government, that all these incidents are well-investigated and that there is no violence or atmosphere of violence before the elections. This, I think, is crucial for stability in the country,” she said. 

“It’s for the citizens to feel that they are free to vote for whomever they want to vote for, and this is, I think, another important element. Of course, the outcome is up to Turkish citizens,” Piri said. 

Pressure on media is a concern 

One prominent topic of debate on the election campaign has been the growing pressure on independent media outlets, with harsh accusations voiced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other top government officials against the Doğan Media Group and daily Hürriyet. When asked about the blow to the media, Piri simply said she was “concerned, of course.” 

“It’s a clear position of the European Parliament. We are concerned ... especially at election time,” she said.
“This is the time citizens want to be well-informed about the politicians they have elected, about what their role is, and also about politicians who are running for the first time and what their positon might be after the elections. We are following it very closely and whenever it comes about – media freedom – the European Parliament has always been the first European institution to raise the concerns,” she said. 

Media freedom, freedom of expression and the independence of the judiciary are all areas of concern for the EP.

Parties should unite for EU reforms 

Piri expressed her hope that Turkey would return to its EU reform agenda after the polls, calling on all parties to unite on it. 

“No matter what comes out of the elections, I hope this is one issue all the political parties can unite on, whoever sits in the government, whoever in the opposition. It’s important not just for the EU, but it’s important for Turkey to continue its democratic path which it has started. The constitutional reform process has to continue. That’s why we are waiting for this election as there could be a new impetus there and I hope all parties will play their constructive role, whatever the results will be.”