Advice for politicians

Weekly The Economist advises Turks to vote for the biggest opposition party CHP in the 12 June elections, because the bigger the CHP vote, the smaller the majority of the ruling AKP party. And the AKP has to be kept under a two thirds majority, according to The Economist, because with a two thirds majority the party would be able to change the constitution totally on its own. Wrong advice, in my humble opinion. The key party is not the CHP, but the smaller MHP.

Why? Simple: they have just above 10% of the votes in the polls. If they fall below that percentage and thus don’t make it to the 10% threshold, their votes will be divided between the CHP and the AKP. A bad scenario, because that would most probably lead to the situation The Economist is warning against: an AKP big enough to change the constitution without having to come to any agreement about it with any other party. I can see the problem in that, but making the CHP big is most likely not going to prevent it, because the CHP’s growth is partly the MHP’s loss.

Some people warn of a situation in which the AKP won’t have a majority. That could happen if the CHP grows bigger than expected, (some say they might even reach 30%, against 21% in the 2007 elections), and if the MHP gets more than 10%. There is also a small influence of the pro-Kurdish BDP, who get about 6% of the votes but bypass the threshold by running with independent candidates. They are expected to grow and even though the number of seats will stay small, they could make a difference*). Turkey has had bad experiences with powerless coalition governments, and some say it would reduce the chance of the constitution being changed at all. Bad, because there is something Turks actually do in general agree on: the constitution, still a heritage of the 1980 coup, is outdated and not fit for a democracy.

Matter of principle

Still, how can you warn against any election outcome? If the elections show that Turkey is divided and politicians after that show no political will to cooperate on a new constitution, then apparently that is the state the country is in. Not nice, but so be it. Would I say the same if the AKP gets a two thirds majority because the MHP doesn’t make it to 10%? So be it? No, that is more of a matter of principle: a huge number of Turks would not be represented in parliament, and that is very undemocratic. So yes, I do hope the MHP gets the seats they are entitled to, even though I’m utterly against their nationalism.

Whatever the outcome, these speculations would all be different if there was no 10% threshold to begin with. Whether it’s the AKP or some coalition government that gets the task of changing the constitution, abolishing it must be high on the to-do list. So, no advice to Turkish voters from me. The voters must vote for whoever they want for whatever reasons they may have, and we will have to make do with the result. Instead, I have some advice for the politicians: use the mandate from your voters wisely, whether in a single party government or in a coalition. Change the constitution, and do it in a way as many Turks as possible recognise themselves in it.

Unfortunately, The Economist is widely read in Ankara (the AKP of course already reacted furiously to its voting advice), but nobody there reads me 😉

*) Check the current composition of parliament here

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