Electoral system of Turkey
The Electoral system of Turkey varies for general, presidential and local elections that take place in Turkey every four years, five years and five years respectively. Turkey has been a multi-party democracy since 1950 (officially since 1945), with the first democratic election held on 14 May 1950 leading to the end of the single-party rule established in 1923. The current electoral system for electing Members of Parliament to the Grand National Assembly has a 10% election threshold, the highest of any country.
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A brief summary of the electoral systems used for each type of election is as follows:
- General elections: The D'Hondt method, a party-list proportional representation system, to elect 600 Members of Parliament to the Grand National Assembly from 87 electoral districts that elect different numbers of MPs depending on their populations.
- Local elections: Metropolitan and District Mayors, Municipal and Provincial Councillors, neighbourhood presidents and their village councils elected through a First-past-the-post system, with the winning candidate in each municipality elected by a simple majority.
- Presidential elections: A Two-round system, with the top two candidates contesting a run-off election two weeks after the initial election should no candidate win at least 50%+1 of the popular vote.
Turkey elects 600 Members of Parliament to the Grand National Assembly using the D'Hondt method, a party-list proportional representation system. In order to return MPs to parliament, a party needs to gain more than 10% of the vote nationwide, meaning that parties may win the most votes in certain areas but not win any MPs due to a low result overall. The parliamentary threshold of 10% has been subject to intense scrutiny by opposition members, since all votes cast for parties polling under 10% are spoilt and allow the parties overcoming the national threshold to win more seats than correspond to their share of votes. E.g. in the 2002 general election the AKP won 34.28% of the vote but won nearly two-thirds of the seats.
The parliamentary threshold does not apply to independents, meaning that Kurdish nationalist politicians who poll strongly in the south-east but are not able to win 10% of the overall vote stand as independents rather than as a party candidate. This was the case in the 2007 and 2011 general election, where the Kurdish Democratic Society Party and the Peace and Democracy Party fielded independent candidates respectively.
Proposals for reform
The main criticism of the current system is the high 10% threshold necessary to gain seats. In January 2015, the CHP renewed their parliamentary proposals to lower the threshold to 3% and proposed no changes to the proportional representation system, though the AKP are against lowering the threshold without wider electoral reform.
In July 2013, the AKP prepared new proposals, named the 'narrow district system' (daraltılmış bölge sistemi), to change the proportional representation system into either a first-past-the-post system or create smaller constituencies which elect a fewer number of MPs. Under these proposals, the threshold would fall from 10% to either 7 or 8% while Turkey would be split into 129 electoral districts rather than the existing 85. İstanbul itself would have been split into 17 or 20 districts. The system will benefit the largest party as well as parties that are the strongest in certain regions, meaning that the AKP and Kurdish nationalist Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) would make the biggest gains. The two main opposition parties CHP and MHP do not have a substantial number of electoral strongholds, meaning that they would be negatively impacted by a narrow-district system. Proposals by the AKP to create a full first-past-the-post system with 550 single-member constituencies were allegedly unveiled in December 2014, though any change in electoral law would have to be passed by parliament at least a year before the election. The AKP's proposals for reform have raised concerns about gerrymandering.
Turkey is split into 87 electoral districts, which elect a certain number of Members to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. The Grand National Assembly has a total of 600 seats, which each electoral district allocated a certain number of MPs in proportion to their population. The Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey conducts population reviews of each district before the election and can increase or decrease a district's number of seats according to their electorate.
In all but four cases, electoral districts share the same name and borders of the 81 Provinces of Turkey. The exceptions are İzmir, İstanbul, Bursa and Ankara. Provinces electing between 19 and 36 MPs are split into two electoral districts, while any province electing above 36 MPs are divided into three. As the country's four largest provinces, İzmir and Bursa are divided into two subdistricts while Ankara and İstanbul is divided into three. The distribution of elected MPs per electoral district is shown below.
Changes in 2018
In 2018, total MPs are increased from 550 to 600. Due to this increase, several districts had more MPs. Ankara and Bursa divided into one more electoral district due to this increase. However, Bayburt is represented with one less MP in 2018, making it the only district with a single MP.
Changes since 2011
A total of eight electoral districts had their number of MPs adjusted since the 2011 general election by the electoral council, as listed below. The two electoral districts of Ankara also had their boundaries changed.
Votes required per MP by province
The number of voters in each province was announced on 17 May 2015. In total, there are 53,741,838 voters in the provinces, which corresponds to 97,712 voters for each MP. However, because of the electoral system, this was not distributed equally to the provinces. In İzmir, where voters per MP was the highest, 118,669 votes corresponded to an MP, whereas in Bayburt, 27,089 voters were represented by an MP.
Two factors caused this more than fourfold disparity. Namely, the electoral law favours provinces smaller in size, which caused İzmir, İstanbul and Ankara, Turkey's largest cities and provinces, to have the least representation per voter. Secondly, the distribution of MPs to provinces was based not on the number of eligible voters, but on total population, which made each vote more valuable in provinces with a young population. For example, the HDP stronghold Hakkari with 154,705 voters got 3 MPs, whereas Yalova with 166,060 voters got 2 MPs. Similarly, Van, another HDP stronghold with 596,809 voter got 8 MPs, whereas Muğla, a CHP stronghold with 665,608 voters got 6 MPs. In Şanlıurfa where AKP and HDP are strong, there were 12 MPs per 974,219 voters, whereas in Manisa, where CHP and MHP perform better than average, votes of 1,006,697 voters determined only 9 MPs. Yusuf Halaçoğlu's bill which would partly mitigate this disparity was rejected in the parliament.
In order to pursue constitutional changes, a party needs either a three-fifths majority or a two-thirds majority, which give the government different powers. These are documented in the table below (valid by 2018 elections).
2013 local government reform
Before the elections, the numbers of councillors and mayors were reduced during the 2013 Turkish local government reorganisation. During the reorganisation, 1,040 beldes were abolished, leaving the number of small town municipalities at 394 and contributing to the reduction in the number of mayors elected in 2014 in comparison to 2009.
The following table shows the numbers of metropolitan and district municipalities, as well as provincial and municipal councillors elected in 2009 and in 2014. In local elections, municipal mayors and councillors are the only partisan officials elected.
|Office||Elected in 2009||Elected in 2014||Change|
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- Haber news (in Turkish)
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- "Official 2009 metropolitan municipal results" (PDF). Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- "Official 2009 district municipal results" (PDF). Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- "Official 2009 provincial councillor results" (PDF). Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- "Official 2009 municipal councillor results" (PDF). Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- "Official 2014 metropolitan municipal results" (PDF). Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- "Official 2014 district municipal results" (PDF). Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- "Official 2014 provincial councillor results" (PDF). Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- "Official 2014 municipal councillor results" (PDF). Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey. Retrieved 4 August 2014.