Türkiye’s electoral politics has come a long way since the founding of the republic in 1923. Political excitement is once again surging in the country as presidential and parliamentary polls have been scheduled on May 14.
Never before have so many parties come together to form an alliance before elections.
The Table of Six opposition group, including the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and IYI Party, have formed the Nation Alliance to challenge incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan-led People’s Alliance, which includes the Justice and Development (AK) Party, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Grand Unity Party (BBP) and New Welfare Party (YRP). Erdogan has been in office since 2002.
So what does the pre-election alliance signify?
In democracies, it is not unusual for smaller political parties to form blocs to take on stronger opponents, and Türkiye is no exception. Such alliances usually take two routes: political parties will compete in the ballot and later form coalitions in the parliament, or they will support each other’s candidates to win the maximum number of constituencies.
Until 2018, Turkish law did not permit political parties to form electoral alliances to back each other’s candidates competing for the 600 seats in the parliament. However, this changed with the passage of an amendment known as 7393 to the Law of Election of Representatives and Other Laws in 2021.
Now political parties can enter an election fight in the form of an alliance.
Even though parties were previously prohibited from forming electoral alliances, they collaborated informally before the passage of the new law.
For instance, two parties willing to work together would not nominate a joint candidate but rather guide their voters to support a candidate from either of the two sides with a higher chance of winning the election. This kind of alliance would later divide parliamentary seats among themselves.
In 1991, the Welfare Party (RP) was a leading party and Erdogan was one of its members. RP formed an informal alliance with Nationalist Task Party (MCP), a predecessor party to the current Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), alongside the Reformist Democratic Party (IDP), a small nationalist conservative party.
While none of them was able to pass the 10 percent threshold on their own, their alliance helped the three parties to receive 17 percent votes with 62 seats under the Welfare Party’s name. This tactic was regarded as a significant achievement of Turkish conservative groups in the 1990s.
With last year’s amendment, they can now openly come forward with a joint candidate.
One of the provisions of the amendment has also reduced the minimum threshold of votes that a political party needs to enter the parliament.
In past elections, a political group would have needed at least 10 percent of the votes to become eligible to field candidates. Now that threshold has been reduced to 7 percent, a move that will help smaller political groups enter parliament without needing the support of an alliance.
The minimum threshold was introduced in the 1980s to discourage a motley of small political groups from entering the parliament as that hampered the lawmaking process due to constant bickering.
Erdogan’s AK Party had won more than 52 percent of the vote in the last June 2018 elections with the support of the Nation Alliance’s voter base.
The 6-party alliance has chosen Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the CHP leader, as their joint candidate for the presidential office. Kilicdaroglu has been CHP’s leader since 2010.