Turkey’s ruling AKP preparing law designed to hinder opposition

Legislation dubbed the “ethics in politics act” being prepared by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will aim to stop “transfers and negotiations of deputies,” and to implement a new system for electoral districts, unnamed officials from the party told Reuters.

The move comes as two breakaway parties, founded by former AKP heavyweights Ahmet Davutoğlu and Ali Babacan, gain traction in the Turkish political landscape and weigh their options to enter the next general election, currently scheduled for 2023.

Under Turkey’s current laws, parties must have held a congress and formed their provincial structures in at least half of the country’s 81 provinces, or already have at least 20 deputies in parliament. If they fail to meet the first criteria, the two newly-established opposition parties would need support from parliamentary groups to meet the second one.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has in the past offered support in the form of deputy transfers to the centre-right Good Party, which was founded by former members of AKP’s silent coalition partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The planned ethics act aims to prevent this manoeuvre, AKP officials said, while dismissing the possibility of an early election.

Amendments the AKP proposes for Turkey’s Political Parties Act would also lower the parliamentary threshold from the unusually high 10 percent to five percent, while redrawing the electoral regions into what is called a “narrowed-region system” in Turkey, a hybrid between the current system and the single-member district system similar to the British one.

Turkey currently has 87 electoral districts, with one in each 81 provinces and an additional six in the four largest provinces. The amendment would raise the number of electoral districts to 146, with a maximum of five deputies to be elected from each one, and would make it harder for smaller parties to win seats in parliament.

"It's clear that any legal regulation about political parties is being brought on the agenda to prevent new parties like ours from entering elections," Reuters quoted a senior official from Babacan's DEVA Party as saying.

The AKP doesn’t aim to hinder the two breakaway parties, another AKP official told news site Diken.

“Whatever happens, no deputies should transfer to another party, including those who would join us,” the official said. “If they don’t like party policies, they can resign. It is unspeakable in politics to lend deputies.”

Diken quoted a MHP official as accusing the CHP of “haggling over deputies.”

Selim Temurci, a spokesman for Davutoğlu’s Future Party, said the party would support efforts to lower the election threshold and pass political ethics laws, “if they would be practices to further democracy and the rule of law.” Temurci added that the government may be planning to call a snap election in the spring of 2021.