Turkey, 2018: Unusual alliance behavior

On 24 June, Turkey has concurrent presidential and assembly elections. These will usher in the new constitution, under which Turkey becomes a presidential system. (The current system is premier-presidential, having changed from parliamentary with the adoption of direct presidential elections.)

The election was called earlier than necessary in an attempt by the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to catch the opposition unprepared. However, unexpectedly, several opposition parties have assembled joint lists an alliance (see clarification below) to contest the assembly elections. Polling suggests that they could win a majority.

The coalition behavior of the opposition is unusual in that it features parties running in a pre-election coalition for assembly elections while running separately for a concurrent presidential election. I know of few cases of major parties behaving this way. It makes sense, however, in that Turkey’s 10% nationwide threshold for assembly seats makes for potentially high disproportionality (so much so that I questioned whether it was “democratic” several years before the crackdown that followed the attempted coup). On the other hand, the presidency is elected by two-round majority, meaning first-round divisions do not necessarily prevent a group of parties eventually getting one of their own elected. (See Chile 2005 for another example of such unusual alliance behavior.; also Taiwan 2012.)

The Peoples Democratic Party (HDP), which counts on Kurdish support, is running separately. It cleared the threshold in both elections of 2015 (a, b), and may do so again.


Zeynep Somer-Topcu clarifies, regarding the assembly alliances:

Ballot had each party and then a larger box for the alliance. You could just stamp anywhere within the box for alliance (if no party preference). Threshold applies to alliance but each party’s MPs enter based on their parties’ vote shares once alliance passes threshold.

(via Twitter, presented here with her OK)

I think it is quite unusual for alliances to work this way, allowing vote pooling across separate lists to help drag smaller parties over a threshold.

13 thoughts on “Turkey, 2018: Unusual alliance behavior

  1. There’s a certain logic to it. Work together to get ourselves into parliament but see which of us can make it to the runoff…

    • Exactly. And they may need the votes each presidential candidate can bring out individually to hold Erdogan below 50% in the first round. Plus, each should have coattails to help the list.

      If you follow the link to the Chile 2005 post, however, you will see it did not quite work that way for the Chilean right.

      And early returns from today’s election are not all that promising, but they are just that–early.

  2. Are the seats first allocated to alliances (coalitions) and then to the party lists?

      • Final results of the legislative election held in Turkey last June 24 are now available on my website’s Turkey page, and I can now confirm that constituency seats were indeed allocated first to qualifying alliances and single parties, and then to parties within alliances. I also ran a notional distribution of seats among parties only – that is disregarding alliances (other than for allowing below-threshold parties within alliances to attain representation) – and the results were AKP 306 (+11); CHP 133 (-13); HDP 72 (+5); MHP 52 (+3); and İP 37 (-6). Most of the changes would have taken place in constituencies with three to six seats, where the opposition alliance’s constituent parties would not have been able to retain on their own many of the seats they otherwise captured by running together. This trend was quite noticeable in the nineteen three-seat districts, where CHP running alone would have secured just seven of 57 seats (12.3%) with 18.2% of the vote, or just over half the 13 (22.8%) it actually won with the help of its alliance partners.

        The irony of it all is that AKP changed the rules to in order to insure parliamentary representation for its ally MHP, but in the end the latter narrowly cleared the ten percent threshold on its own; the opposition Good Party sneaked in with 9.96% of the vote, just short of the threshold; and on top of that the initial allocation of constituency seats to the alliances ended up depriving AKP of an overall majority. To be certain, AKP and MHP won a comfortable legislative majority, but otherwise the change clearly backfired on AKP.

  3. “I think it is quite unusual for alliances to work this way, allowing vote pooling across separate lists to help drag smaller parties over a threshold.”

    Italy’s late, unlamented Porcellum lowered the threshold for parties running within coalitions – but unlike Turkey, it didn’t remove it altogether.

    • Didn’t Poland and/or Czech Republic have varying thresholds – 5% for a party and 8% for a coalition? (curiously mirroring California’s thresholds for statutory and constitutional initiatives, and Sweden’s thresholds for candidates to jump up the list-order on personal votes in Riskdag and local elections…)

      • I think both countries still do have such a threshold (it’s part of the reason Law and Justice have a majority in Poland, because the leftists ran as a coalition and missed out on seats while winning 7.6% of the votes), although such a provision would have made no difference in Turkey unless the coalition threshold were set ridiculously high.

      • I believe I read a rather detailed critique of the Polish outcome in a recent work on seats and votes but alas my fading memory means I cannot recall the authors offhand.

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