Turkey

Turkish Election: The Political Boomerang Threatening Erdogan

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) may not have enough seats to form a government if the main Kurdish party passes the 10% election threshold.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine in Istanbul
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine in Istanbul
Fuat Keyman

-OpEd-

ISTANBUL — The boomerang is a weapon native to Australia, which famously has the capacity to return to strike the shooter, turning the hunter into the hunted.

That metaphor comes to mind when reading and hearing a certain sense of worry from Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections on Sunday. Party leaders face the fear that if their share of the vote decreases to around 43%, and the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) passes the 10% election threshold, the AKP may not manage to get 276 members in the parliament — the necessary number to form a government on their own.

They are calling on the people who have voted for the AKP in the previous elections, but are indecisive this time, or may simply abstain from voting. "You may be angry at the AKP for this or that reason, but beware of the consequences of the decision of not going to the ballot box," is the message. "We may wake up after the vote to see that the AKP cannot form a government. Go and vote."

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A HDP election stand in Germany on May 3— Photo: blu-news.org

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said, “These elections will hold surprises until the very last minute,” which is meant to mobilize voters who lean his way.

History bites back

Everybody asks these two questions: Will the AKP have 276 seats? Will the HDP — a coalition of leftist and Kurdish parties that banded together to gain strength — make it into Parliament? The 10% threshold is the common factor implicit in both questions. The AKP has defended the threshold the name of stability. This support for the high threshold is what has created the risk that AKP might not have the numbers to form a government. It is the proverbial boomerang turning around Turkish politics right now.

The current concerns of President Erdogan and his AKP allies gives us the opportunity to say this one more time: The 10% threshold is anti-democratic; it is also risky not only for the parties that don't receive enough votes to pass it, but for the ones that receive high percentages as well.

The AKP had won 64% of the parliamentary seats in the 2002 elections when they came to power thanks to the threshold — despite the fact that they had received only 34% of the votes. Today, again because of this threshold, they may not be able to hold the power with the 44% of the votes. What worked for them in 2002 may work against them in 2015.

The threshold was unacceptable then and it is unacceptable now.

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