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Turkey’s parliamentary system may just have a small, but meaningful shift in power. Elections are going on in the country to vote in parties for seats in parliament. The current ruling party, the AKP, also known as the Justice and Development Party, is expected to maintain its large number of seats. However, the frustration that remains for the AKP is that although it has dominated for 13 years, it may not get the number of seats it needs this year. This is an issue, because the party may continue to have influence and impact, but not the level of impact it wanted this time. If the party does not attain more than 367 seats in this election, it may not be able to make the constitutional change its leader, President Tayyip Erdogan, wants.
In order to understand how Turkey’s system works, it is necessary to understand parliamentary systems. In parliamentary systems, such as the one in Turkey, there are a number of parties that can represent their members. There is a threshold of votes needed in order for a party to make it onto parliament, and in Turkey, the threshold is 10 percent. After the threshold has been crossed, the number of seats in parliament are given to a party based on how many votes that party got. Since the Turkish parliament calls for two-thirds of the votes in an election for a party to be majority, AKP will need two-thirds of the votes this time to maintain its majority reign. There are 550 seats in Turkey’s parliament, and two-thirds of that rounds up to 367 seats. If the AKP can get 367 seats, it can consider itself to be somewhat relieved to be the remaining majority party.
President Erdogan needs the AKP to win those 367 seats so that he can make a change in the constitution. He wants to shift more executive power onto the President, which would take power away from the Prime Minister. If the AKP gets enough votes, it can pass this change in the constitution without any votes from other parties. Turkish TV stations report that with two-thirds of the votes counted so far, the AKP has 43.6 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, the pro-Kurdish party, the HDP, looks like it is about to break the 10 percent threshold for the first time. In short, Turkey may change its politics after this critical election.
At least two explosions were set off on June 5 at a Kurdish election rally. The rally was in support of the HDP. President Erdogan says that the blasts were a “provocation” meant to undermine the peace that should be ahead of today’s election. Another thing that is important to note about Turkey is that it holds the largest number of Kurdish people, which is an ethnic group in the Middle East. Kurds are dispersed throughout Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey. They are indigenous to the Middle East and have their own language and customs. They are not monolithic, which does prevent a unifying national allegiance, but a considerable number of Kurds call for a Kurdistan, a nation for them to call their own. Kurds have been marginalized and targeted within the nations they inhabit, which is why it is such a big deal that they may finally have a seat in Turkey’s parliament. Whether or not the HDP gets a seat, its close victory is still significant. Turkey is about to see a change in its politics.
The struggle for the AKP to maintain its majority and the possible victory on the horizon for the HDP mark a change in Turkey. Its Kurdish minority has pulled through and may finally have some representation. Meanwhile, the AKP is showing a loss in power with its struggle to get a sufficient amount of seats, even if it still maintains a high number of them. Whether or not the AKP gets enough seats to change the constitution, things are going to change. The votes have shifted, even if slightly, and Turkey is about to change its politics.
By Tania Dawood
BBC- Turkey ruling AKP ‘may lose majority’
CNN- Turkey votes in game-changing parliamentary election
Newsweek- Who are the Kurds?
NBC- Turkish Election Rally Explosion Was Gas Cylinder Bomb: Sources
Featured Photo Courtesy of Dennis Jarvis’ Flickr Page- Creative Commons License