Erdogan might alter election laws to block other parties from contesting elections

Republic of Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is concerned about losing its popularity among people. The party head, criticised for trampling upon the democratic principles of the country, is now contemplating about altering electoral laws to wipe out any potential competition. Though the country is not going for elections before 2023, but according to certaininternal sources the government might call for snap elections to get majority votes. AKP’s coalition partner and far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli proposed to ban parliamentary deputies from moving to other parties. 

The MHP’s proposal, which could be another blow to the country’s dying democracy, was introduced after Republican People’s Party, the largest opposition party, announced that it would transfer some its deputies to the two new parties, which entered the race. The proposal, which restricts the transfer of deputies, would prevent any new party from entering the Parliament, as it would become difficult for them to meeting the basic requirement of being backed by a group of 20 deputies, to contest elections. MHP’s electoral amendment was directed against Ahmet Davutoğlu and Ali Babacan, former allies of the Turkish President, who founded their own opposition parties, the Future (GP) and Progress (DEVA) parties, respectively.

Babacan, the country’s former economy czar and Davutoğlu, former premier, both have been very critical of Erdogan’s way of governance and his economic policies. Babacan held Erdogan responsible for the downfall of the Turkish economy, and said that his financial policies and “sterile foreign meddling” had exhausted the state budget.

According to veteran Turkish journalist Zulfikar Dogan, writing for Ahval, Erdogan and Bahceli, “appear panic-stricken by the declining support indicated in the latest polls”.

He added: “While both the MHP and its coalition partner, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), say polls are not on their agenda until the next scheduled general election in 2023, a recent move by Bahceli calling for a swift change in six laws that will greatly alter the political process indicates otherwise”.

AKP Group Deputy Chairman Bülent Turan, told the mainstream Habertürk the AKP would not implement the ban of parliamentarians who transfer to other parties. 

Interestingly, Bahceli proposed amendments to six laws, including the country’s political party laws, electoral laws and parliamentary laws. Even if AKP was not going ahead with the banning of transfer of deputies, there was no clarity what other changes the party had in mind. Turkey’s main opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, said, “It is likely that Erdogan gave the order to Bahceli to call for changes to election laws, as it would be in the Turkish president’s benefit to tweak the system given the apparent fall in support.”

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