The Turkish parliament has approved controversial amendments to the…

Turkish Parliament Approves Contentious Election Law Changes

The Turkish parliament has approved controversial amendments to the country’s election laws

On Thursday, Turkey’s parliament changed its electoral law, which opponents say could lead to election fraud and make it more difficult for an opposition coalition to take control of the house in the next election.

After a three-day deliberation, Parliament approved the revisions by a show of hands. Legislators from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party and its nationalist allies, who hold a majority in parliament, backed the amendments.

The reforms, among other things, decrease the parliamentary admission barrier from 10% to 7%, change how legislative seats are apportioned among alliance members, and transfer the oversight of election results challenges to judges chosen by lot. The adjustments would take effect the next year.

The changes have been called a desperate move by Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, which has been losing ground in polls.

Before the vote, Filiz Kerestecioglu, a politician from the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party, said, “The bill we’re discussing amounts to electoral engineering (by Erdogan’s party) with the goal of staying in power—not with the goal of serving a democratic election or representation.” Her political party is not a member of the opposition coalition.

An official in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party who wrote the amendments has said that they will make elections more representative of the “will of the people.”

The Republican People’s Party, Turkey’s biggest opposition party, has promised to fight some of the amendments in the country’s top court.

Smaller parties are expected to be disadvantaged by the changes to how parliamentary seats are divided in each election district, making joining the opposition coalition futile. Previously, seats in the legislature were given out based on the total number of votes an alliance got. With the amendments, seats will be given out based on the number of votes each party got.

It’s said that the decision was made to keep two small conservative parties from joining the opposition alliance, which broke away from Erdogan’s party.

Rather than the top-ranking judge in a district, challenges to vote counts would be reviewed by judges chosen in a random drawing. Critics argue that the move will increase the likelihood of judges nominated by the ruling party in recent years—those who are supposedly loyal to the party—overseeing appeals cases.

The opposition has applauded the reduction in the requisite percentage of votes to be represented in parliament. They claim, however, that the move is intended to save Erdogan’s Nationalist Movement Party, which is losing in public polls. The bar would continue to be one of the highest in Europe.

They also claim that, due to a technicality in the legislation, Erdogan would be free from some campaign limits as president, casting doubt on the election’s impartiality—a charge denied by the ruling party.

The election reforms were enacted a month after the leaders of six opposition parties met and swore that if they won the next elections, they would return to a parliamentary system. Some people say Erdogan’s executive presidency is like a one-man tyranny. They said they would demolish it.

In the face of an economic slump and rising inflation, many people are struggling to meet their basic requirements. According to polls, the ruling party-led alliance is losing support.

The amendments would take effect in time for the June 2023 presidential and legislative elections. If early elections are called, the present election laws will apply.