Monday, July 23, 2007

Turkish ruling party gains in votes, declines in seats

By AviShalom

In parliamentary elections Sunday, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has won with a much improved share of the vote compared to 2002: around 47%, which is the highest share for a Turkish party in over forty years. (News sources: The Guardian and the BBC.)

This near-majority of the vote compares woith only 34.2% in 2002.

However, the AKP has actually lost seats, and will now have 340 (61.8%). In 2002, it won 363, which put it at 66% of the total and only four seats short of the two thirds needed to elect a president. (It was the failure of parliament to elect a president that triggered this election's being called a few months early.)

Two secular parties collectively performed much better in 2007 than in 2002, combining for 183 seats, based on current estimates: Republican People's Party (112 seats, compared to 178 in 2002) and the Nationalist Action Party (71, up from 0). Independents appear to have won 27.

Of course, the AKP's seat decline despite large vote gain is entirely attributable to the better coordination of the secular parties and independent candidacies. In 2002, only the AKP and the Republican People's Party won any seats, aside from independents (of which there were only 9).

Turkey uses a districted list "PR" system with a 10% threshold. I put "PR" (proportional representation) in quotation marks, because many of the districts elect few seats (more seats per district-->more proportional result) and thus regional vote patterns can greatly distort the relationship of seats to national vote totals. More importantly, the threshold for a party to win a seat is applied nationally, despite the otherwise regional process of allocating seats. In Turkey, even if a party is the largest party in a given district, it will win no seats at all if it did not have 10% of the total aggregate national vote. (It is the only electoral system of its kind that I know of, and its design is of dubious democratic standards.)

Despite the setback in parliament, the far more significant result of this election is that it reveals that the AKP was well served by the confrontations over attempting to elect a president and the struggles over Islamism (represented, in moderate form, by the AKP) and economic liberalism (also represented by the AKP) against its more secular but also nationalist opposition. And it suggests a likely affirmative answer to my question as to whether the party could win a national majority in a direct presidential election. The referendum on the constitutional amendments that would establish direct election was recently cleared by the Constitutional Court and is due in October.

(Cross-posted at Fruits & Votes.)

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