The date of the elections has been officially announced as May 14, 2023 and the election process has begun. We have less than two months ahead of us. Now that the presidential candidates have been selected, the next step is to prepare and submit the parliamentary lists to the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK).
Let us not think that this will be a simple process, as the new electoral law is quite different from the previous ones. The law contains a number of pitfalls for parties forming alliances. We need to anticipate the ways in which it is likely to be implemented and find ways to overcome possible difficulties.
What was the practice?
The last parliamentary election was held in 2018. The total votes won by the parties in the provincial elections in which they entered into an alliance determined the number of parliamentary seats won. Subsequently, parliamentary seats were allocated according to the votes received by the parties in the alliance. Let us illustrate this simple method: Let’s have a province where a total of 6 deputies will be elected. On the one hand, there is party (A), which will stand alone in the elections. On the other side, there is an electoral alliance (B) formed by 3 parties. Let us assume that the party (A) receives 130 thousand votes and alliance (B) receives 110 thousand votes. In this case, party (A) and alliance (B) win 3 parliamentary seats each. The votes received by the parties in alliance (B) determine the total number of parliamentary seats of the alliance. The total number of votes cast for the alliance directly determines the number of parliamentary seats the alliance will recieve.
However, we know that throughout our multi-party political history, we cannot get enough of changing the rules of the game at the expense of eroding democracy. In recent years, with a ‘successful move’, we changed our election law again, and the simple method above was scrapped. The revised election law has made parliamentary representation much more complicated.
What happened now?
Let us list the method introduced by the new law. This time:
- Votes cast for a party in an alliance are not recorded in the vote register of the alliance,
- Each party in the alliance must receive enough votes to secure a parliamentary seat in that province,
- If the individual votes of individual parties are not enough to secure a parliamentary seat, they are ignored. As a result, these votes are wasted and do not benefit the other parties in the alliance.
Let us now look at the implications of this new practice:
In the above-mentioned case, let us assume that the first two parties of alliance (B) receive 30 thousand votes each (60 thousand votes in total). If it is necessary to get at least 32 thousand votes in order to get 1 deputy in the province where the election is held, these 2 parties in the alliance cannot get a deputy. The total 60 thousand votes won by these parties are wasted and cannot be counted in the account of alliance (B). As a result, the total of 6 MPs to be elected in this province are divided as 5 MPs for the single party (A) and 1 MP for the third party of alliance (B). Of course, if the third party in alliance (B) also receives less than 32 thousand votes, all of the parliamentary seats go to party (A).
Electoral law conceals ‘game within a game’
This calculation method will be applied for the first time in the upcoming elections and we will see the results on the evening of 14 May. However, we know one thing: the more the number of parties participating in an alliance in this election, the more the number of votes that will not be transformed into parliamentary seats will increase. Therefore, it seems that the new electoral system, which has been designed by a sleight of hand, seeks to frustrate the parties while directing them to the elections with their individual lists within the alliance.
Now, let us look at the situation of the existing alliances before the elections:
What will the AK Party, the locomotive of the People’s Alliance, do? It will add the candidates of its partners such as BBP and Hüda-Par (and other small parties that can be added) to the AK Party lists. How will the MHP behave? Although it seems likely that the MHP will enter the elections with its own individual list within the alliance (as before), taking into account the polls and the new electoral law, it may follow a different path. It seems plausible that the MHP, like the other minor partners, will try to enter the Parliament from the AK Party’s lists.
These methods will protect the People’s Alliance from the ‘traps’ of the new electoral law. Let’s put it differently: In fact, it can be seen that the new law has been prepared with the aim of enlarging the AK Party, which will enter the elections by melting small parties into its organisation, and thus recover some of its losses from its mismanagement of the economy.
Let us now look at the situation of the Millet Alliance: The 6-party Millet Alliance has a difficult job. At the core of the Millet Alliance lies a great democratic consensus. The philosophy of this consensus encourages parties to enter the elections with their own unique identities. Some of these parties may participate in the elections with the lists of one of the other parties in the Alliance. However, if the other parties enter the elections with their own lists, the Alliance will lose significant votes. This is a certainty.
What might happen?
It is possible to see this clearly when we make inferences and predictions according to different components under the heading ‘Simulations’ siyasett.com website (1), which has started its life as a data bank for Turkish political life. The aim of the new electoral system is not to hold more democratic elections. The aim is for the government to beat the opposition in the elections. The system forces parties to resort to undesirable methods in the preparation of lists. However, it seems that the parties, especially in the Millet Alliance, are not willing to adapt themselves to the mathematical realities. If the parties in the Millet Alliance do not coordinate in the preparation of the parliamentary lists, the People’s Alliance will have more parliamentary seats with lower votes across the country.
Let us analyse it in another way: If the candidates of all the parties in the People’s Alliance are placed on the AK Party lists, all the votes they will receive will turn into MPs, and there will be no lost votes. Thus, the People’s Alliance will not fall into the trap of the new system.
Let’s look at the situation of the Millet Alliance: It is estimated that 2 parties in the Alliance will enter the elections from CHP lists. In this case, there are 4 parties left. Let’s take the average of the results of 4 polls conducted after the earthquake. Let’s use this data in the simulation for the other 4 parties in the Millet Alliance. The result is striking: The Millet Alliance can only get 210 parliamentary seats in Turkey. If different parties enter the elections with different party lists in different provinces, the number of deputies can increase up to 245. However, even in this case, the pitfalls of the new election system come into play: Approximately 2.6 million votes of the Millet Alliance parties do not turn into MPs and are wasted.
What can be done?
It is essential that the parties in the Millet Alliance enter the elections with a single list. Only in this way is it mathematically possible for them to reach the highest number of parliamentary seats. However, if this method is agreed upon, the 6 parties will have to explain the situation to their voters. The difficult process of determining a joint presidential candidate will also be experienced during the presentation of the parliamentary lists to the public.
Another option is that CHP and İYİ Party, the two locomotive parties of the alliance, enter the elections with two-party lists in provinces with multiple electoral districts such as Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Bursa, in this case, they share the remaining provinces between them, and each of them will join the candidates of other parties of the alliance to their lists in 37-38 provinces and face the People’s Alliance with a single united list. In this case, the Millet alliance, like the AK Party, can convert all the votes it receives into parliamentary seats.
An election simulation experiment
When the People’s and Nation alliances enter the elections by gathering under a single party list across Turkey, the estimated result – in the light of current polling data – is as follows:
The upcoming election has many unknowns. Although there is so little time left until the elections, we do not know how many alliances there will be, whether the parties in alliances will participate in the elections with individual or joint lists, or how the lists will be prepared.
When these unknowns are taken into account, it becomes clear that for parties to be successful, it will not be enough for them to simply introduce themselves. Simulations based on sophisticated algorithms and fine calculations will also be decisive.
Party leaders cannot naturally be expected to know these algorithms. Nevertheless, I think that it would be of great benefit for all parties that will participate in alliances to gather their lawyers and IT personnel and start making probability calculations as soon as possible. We should also keep in mind that we will also make our system preference in the upcoming election. Therefore, the 14 May election will be different from past elections.
In the meantime, we should also keep in mind that historical opportunities do not repeat themselves.
(1) Siyasett.com is a database of data on Turkish political life. It contains detailed information on political parties, politicians, lists of elections held so far, polls prepared by polling companies and many other kinds of rich data. Another feature of Siyasett is that its users are offered the opportunity to make simulations about future elections based on existing data and polling results. The website, which will soon operate with a subscription system, can be accessed for trial purposes without a subscription during this transitional period.