Turkey’s new electoral board rules may endanger election security, warns professor

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Some provisions of the new election law passed by the parliament on March 31 will endanger election security, a constitutional law professor has warned.

The new law changes the rules on how provincial and district election electoral boards are formed. Under the long-standing old rule, the most senior judge in a constituency would be picked as the head of the electoral board of that particular district or province.

With the new law, the heads of election boards will be determined by lot. The Judicial Justice Commissions, which consist of the chief public prosecutor of a place and two judges picked by the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK), will cast lots.

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“While there are a lot of problems with the HSK in terms of separation of powers, now these problems will be reflected in our electoral system,” said Prof. Korkut Kanadoğlu, the dean of the Okan University Faculty of Law.

The fact that the HSK is chaired by the minister of justice may be one of the factors exacerbating the problems in the system, he said.

“Moreover, as is the case with many amended articles, the justification of this amendment has no relation to the text of the article. While it is said, ‘the uncertainty regarding the selection of substitute members are eliminated’ in the justification of the article, the amendment is for the determination of not substitute members but chairpersons and members of [election] boards.

“This proposal, which is already problematic in terms of the law-making procedure, raises important doubts in terms of electoral security.”

“Option” to withdraw

There is an important difference between the determination of the members of provincial and district election boards, which is the option given to district judges to withdraw from lots, noted Kanadoğlu.

Why this option was not given to judges who do not want to be members of provincial election boards should be clarified, he said.

“The dangers of various types of pressure [on judges] that may arise during the exercise of the right not to take part in the drawing of lots should be taken into account in terms of election security, at least as a possibility, considering the experiences of previous years,” he added.

There were problems even with the old system and there were cases where election board chairs had resigned due to pressures, the professor recalled, saying, “It is a constitutional reality that our country is facing many problems in terms of election security.”

Details about the electoral law amendment

The party has shared the following information about what has changed with the amendments introduced to the Election Law:

    • The new law decreases the threshold that must be passed to enter parliament from ten percent to seven percent.
    • Importantly, it also changes the way that parliamentary seats are allocated among members of an alliance – at the expense of the opposition. Under the current system, parties get more seats if they are part of alliances, but this advantage is being taken away under the changes. Before the changes, seats were first distributed to alliances in proportion to their respective voting rates and then distributed within alliances. Accordingly, if the rate of votes received by the alliance is over the country threshold, the calculation and distribution of the MPs in the electoral districts will be done based on the number of votes received by every single party of the alliance in the related district.
    • Next election, the number of MPs of the political parties constituting an alliance will be determined with the general D’Hondt method by considering the number of votes received within the alliance in each electoral district.
    • The new law also brings in stricter requirements for parties to complete their district, provincial and nationwide conventions in order to take part in elections. That a parliamentary group was formed before the election law was adopted will not be deemed sufficient for that party to take part in the elections.
    • The new law requires parties to complete organizing in 41 provinces six months ahead of the elections.
    • The law also stipulates that a draw will be held between the three most senior elections officials to choose the head of the election board.
    • Under the new amendments, challenges to vote counts would thus be overseen by judges selected in a draw instead of by the top-ranking judge in a district.
    • The new law brings some new arrangements for the procedure of determining election councils. According to the amendment, a political party will not be eligible to nominate a person from another party to be a member of the balloting committee without his or her approval.
    • With the amendment concerning election bans on ‘Prime Minister and Ministers,’ the phrase ‘Prime Minister’ is removed from the text, and thus, only ministers are subject to election bans. There is no restriction on the president’s activities during election campaigns.



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