Top Turkish court's review of 10 pct election threshold prompts political debate

Top Turkish court's review of 10 pct election threshold prompts political debate

Bülent Sarıoğlu ANKARA
Top Turkish courts review of 10 pct election threshold prompts political debate Turkish political parties have launched a fresh debate over the possibility of lifting the 10 percent threshold in the election system, with the Constitutional Court now considering an application to review the matter.

The debate was triggered after Constitutional Court head Haşim Kılıç was quoted as saying by daily Habertürk on Nov. 30 that the Court was working on applications and would make a decision in two or three weeks.

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies criticized Kılıç’s statements as “targeting the upcoming 2015 general elections” by creating controversy, while opposition deputies said they would welcome the lifting of the threshold.

The Constitutional Court made a statement Dec. 10 that its head had simply replied to questions about the ongoing applications on the issue and had not made any subjective remarks about the Court's future ruling on the issue.

“It is clearly meaningless to make any statement over an issue before even deciding whether the applications are acceptable,” said the statement, adding that reports had been written based on responses given within the framework of the Constitution’s rules.

A question upon applications from the Democratic Left Party (DSP), the Great Union Party (BBP) and the Felicity Party (SP) regarding the lifting of the 10 percent election threshold prompted a response by Kılıç, the statement said. It added that the file had been sent to the general assembly, rather than an individual decision, due to its sensitivity.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is the closest party to the 10 percent limit, but it has chosen to nominate independent candidates before reforming in Parliament to guarantee its representation.

AKP deputy leader Mustafa Şentop slammed Kılıç for making a statement that “aims to create political results.”

“I see that as a move aiming to create questions ahead of the elections. This move aims to have political results,” Şentop said.

He also claimed that the Constitutional Court could not lift the threshold but could call on Parliament to change the election law on the grounds that the threshold violates rights. Even if Parliament changes the elections law and removes the threshold, this would not be in force for the 2015 elections, Şentop said, adding that it would be unconstitutional to implement it for 2015 elections, even if Parliament changes the law.   

Parliament Constitution Commission head Burhan Kuzu, also of the AKP, said individual applications to the Constitutional Court could not be made about such matters.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Group Head Engin Altay said the Constitutional Court could not remove the threshold but could decide that it violates rights. Altay said his party had repeatedly said the 10 percent threshold was not just or proportional and should be removed or decreased to 5 or 3 percent.

HDP deputies also voiced support for a lifting of the threshold, with party deputy Hasip Kaplan saying that three days of work was enough for such an amendment. HDP deputy Demir Çelik similarly expressed hope that the Court would rule that the the threshold should be lifted.

However, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy Nevzat Korkmaz said the threshold should be kept at 10 percent. “The Constitutional Court cannot replace Parliament. It can only determine whether the laws are constitutional,” Korkmaz added.