Turkey's electoral system; a synopsis
In the heat of the period before the Turkish elections, the nation braces itself for a battle royale between the current President and his opposition rival. With the fate of the country hanging in the balance, all eyes are on the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, set to be the most divisive in decades.
The ruling People's Alliance candidate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the opposition bloc Nation Alliance's candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Homeland Party leader Muharrem Ince, and the far-right ATA Alliance's nominee Sinan Ogan are racing to win Turkey's presidential elections in 2023. The list was finalized on March 27 after Ince and Ogan gathered more than 100,000 signatures, which is a requirement for any presidential candidate with no parliamentary party.
The battle lines have been drawn as Turkey prepares for a political showdown on May 14, 2023. The People's Alliance, which includes the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on one side, and the Nation Alliance, made up of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the nationalist Good Party, on the other side.
The Nation Alliance, which is only bound by its opposition to President Erdogan, has come together around a pledge to reinstate a parliamentary system within two years if elected. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the CHP, was selected as the Nation Alliance's presidential candidate. Analysts believe that his coalition's ideological diversity may hinder his bid for the presidency. He vowed to nominate a vice president from each of the five other parties, promising to actively involve them in decision-making and policies, in a bid to secure the support of his coalition.
Electoral campaigns are underway in #Turkey as the race for general elections picks up steam leading to the big day on May 14.— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) May 1, 2023
Who do you think will be Turkey's President for the next 5 years?@LeaAAkil #TurkeyElections pic.twitter.com/TK5FfhEGtU
Kilicdaroglu is anticipated to receive support from the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which has a strong Kurdish core and is predicted to obtain about 11% of the parliamentary vote. Even though the extra backing is valued, it might ward off supporters of Kilicdaroglu's own coalition who consider the HDP a threat to the Turkish state.
Additionally, President Erdogan must overcome challenges of his own. Even though he has been in office since 2003 and has a record of achievements in the country, many voters now feel that the power should be stripped from Erdogan, calling for change. Some believe that Erdogan and the AKP's economic strength has come to an end as a result of the economic crisis that Turkey has been experiencing since 2018. These people are betting that Western financial institutions and investors will support the Turkish economy more if Erdogan is removed from power.
Turkey's electoral system is mixed, combining proportional representation with majority voting. The principle of proportional representation states that the number of seats controlled by a political organization or party in a legislative body is determined by the number of registered popular votes. For the presidential election, a majority vote simply means receiving more than half of the national vote share.
Turkey shifted from a parliamentary to a presidential system in July 2018, when President Erdogan was sworn in for a second term. A presidential candidate must now receive either an absolute majority or more than 50% of the national vote in a two-round election. If neither candidates earn a majority, a candidate is elected president in a run-off between the two candidates who received the most votes on the first ballot.
One must be a Turkish citizen, at least 40 years old, and possess a bachelor's degree in any field in order to be able to run for president. Any party that received at least 5% of the vote in the previous parliamentary election is eligible to nominate a candidate. Parties may also jointly nominate candidates if they form alliances and obtain a majority of the vote. That said, the president cannot be removed from office before the completion of his or her five-year term, because he or she was directly chosen by the people.
The Constitution grants the President numerous executive powers as the head of state. These include passing laws, appointing ministers, deputy prime ministers, and other top public officials, approving and passing international treaties, forming foreign policy, and opting on national security policies.
The stakes for both alliances in the legislative elections are significant. However, Erdogan could still find it challenging to rule even if he wins the presidency if the People's Alliance loses its legislative majority, which could trigger early elections. Its prospects mostly depend on how satisfied voters are with the nation's security and economic plans in the country.
On the other hand, the Nation Alliance could face challenges as it aims to fulfill its commitment of transitioning to an "enhanced parliamentary system." This objective necessitates a constitutional amendment, thus requiring the Alliance to secure a two-thirds majority in parliament.
The electoral system
Turkey will vote for 600 members of The Grand National Assembly, the country's parliament, to represent 87 electoral districts in 81 Turkish provinces. Parliamentary seats are assigned to electoral districts in proportion to their population. Istanbul, for example, has 98 MPs, while Ankara has 36 in three electoral districts. Izmir and Bursa, the country's third and fourth largest provinces, each have two electoral districts.
Turkish residents must vote for a single political party and its candidates from specific districts. To win a majority, a party must win over half of the parliament seats. That said, to be eligible for seats in parliament, a party must receive 7% of valid nationwide votes.
#Turkey is preparing to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14, 2023, in what is described as "the most important in the history of the country."— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) May 1, 2023
As the election date draws near, three key takeaways must be discussed.#TurkeyElections pic.twitter.com/LAFW0YItpy
Role of Supreme Election Council
The Supreme Electoral Council (YSK), which consists of seven principle and four substitute members, declares the results nationally once all votes have been counted. The government's main electoral institution, YSK, is in charge of executing all essential procedures to ensure fair and transparent elections, as well as overseeing the entire process. The council has full control and authority over all final decisions on election irregularities during and after voting.
Can we depend on the polls?
The results of opinion polls till now are contradictory regarding the winner of the Turkish presidential elections. Some of them place Erdogan in first place, saying that the elections will be decided in his favor in the first round, while others say Kilicdaroglu will win after the elections head to a second round. This could be related to the political orientation of the pollsters, and could be related to the developments of the political scene after the preparation of the electoral alliances, which may have played a role in the mood of voters, especially since Justice and Development officials are confident about progress in recent days.
A recent survey conducted by the Optimar research center and reported by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet on May 2nd revealed that Erdogan obtained 51.4% of the votes, while Kilicdaroglu received 48.6%. Al Mayadeen's correspondent to Ankara, Omar Kayed, reported that opinion polls in the nation often do not take foreign votes into consideration, and added that the polls are currently discussing how indecisive the first round is turning out to be - after voting for Turkish citizens outside the country began April 2 and will continue until the 9th of May.
A previous poll published by Metropoll on April 8th put Kilicdaroglu ahead of Erdogan at 42.6 and Erdogan at 41.1. Another poll by Aksoy, published on April 18, also put Kilicdaroglu ahead of Erdogan at 47.9 and the current President at 38.4. A later poll, published by Genar on April 20, put Erdogan ahead of Kilicdaroglu at 51.7 and his opponent at 48.3.
From parliammentary to presidential
In an effort to replace the 1982 Constitution drafted by the military with a new civilian constitution, Turkey was in the midst of a constitution-making process. During this time, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested in a 2012 TV interview that the possibility of adopting a presidential or semi-presidential system should be considered. The typical parliamentary model involves a council of ministers who are politically accountable to the parliament and a mostly symbolic head of state. However, the 1982 Turkish Constitution deviated from this model by creating a presidency with substantial political powers.
Although some of the president's powers are ceremonial in nature, many others involve the use of discretionary political authority, such as appointing judges, chief public prosecutors, university rectors, and members of the Board of Higher Education. This has led to the description of the governmental system created by the 1982 Constitution as a hybrid system between parliamentarism and semi-presidentialism, or as "attenuated parliamentarism." The governing military council created this hybrid system to establish a powerful presidency that would supervise the elected bodies, including the parliament and council of ministers.
The forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections will most certainly be among the most crucial in decades. After two decades in power, the AKP has fundamentally altered Turkish politics and introduced a new ruling class from a different social and political background, with impacted the country from various corners. With around 6 million new voters from the youth, this year’s elections could be a turning point for Erdogan, noting that the recent developments regarding the pro-Kurdish party's full backing of Kilicdaroglu could be of either Erdogan or his opponent’s benefit.