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Voting & Politics

This guide was written by Francine Carrel, Assistant Editor of Guides.Global (office@guides.global).

It was written on 22 February 2017. The law and practice in Turkey change all the time. Our guides are updated as frequently as possible - typically every three years - but may be out of date.

Our guides are prepared by professionals from many countries. They are, of necessity, both brief and general and can take no account of your personal circumstances. They are intended to be a good introduction to the subject BUT ARE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PROPER PROFESSIONAL ADVICE, which our contributors will usually be happy to provide upon request.

The advice and opinions contained in the guides are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Guides.Global.

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The scope of this guide

This guide is about politics in Turkey - who can vote, who they can vote for, and the types of election that take place.

Introduction

Turkish politics are based around a mixture of Islamism and Kemalism. The latter, an ideology that embraces secularism and modernisation, was implemented by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (see below). It is in direct conflict with conservative Islamism.

Turkey has effectively been a multi-party democracy since 1950 (officially since 1945). There are usually three, sometimes four, parties represented in Parliament.

The current ruling party, the AKP, is controversial: it is leaning away from the Republic of Turkey's traditionally secular ideals.

Who can vote in Turkey?

Turkish citizens over the age of 18 can vote in all elections. This was reduced from 20 in 1995.

The only exceptions are:

  1. Military officers cannot vote

  2. Military students cannot vote

  3. Prisoners cannot vote

The restrictions on soldiers come because those serving in the military may be put under pressure to vote a certain way.

To vote, you must be on the electoral roll.

Turkish citizens living abroad can also vote, through ballot boxes located around the world. Some may have to travel further than others. They have to be registered on the overseas electoral register (check if you're on it here).

Political structure of Turkey

Turkey is a large nation with a complex political structure.

It has a unicameral Grand National Assembly (Turkiye Buyuk Millet Meclisi). This means that, unlike most countries, there is only one house in the legislature. This contrasts with, for example, the US where you have the House of Representatives and the Senate; or the UK where you have the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Assembly has 550 seats, with members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote. They serve a four-year terms. The next election is to be held on June 2019.

AKP logoThe Prime Minister (Başbakan) is the head of government and of the Cabinet (below). The current Prime Minister is Binali Yıldırım of the AKP.

The President of Turkey (Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Cumhurbaşkan, more commonly known as Cumhurbaşkanı) has a role which is largely ceremonial, but he does hold potent reserve powers. The current President is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of the AKP (pictured, right).

Executive power is held by the Cabinet of Turkey (Türkiye Kabinesi), also known as the Council of Ministers (Bakanlar Kurulu), which is made up of the heads of all the ministeries.

Legislative power is held by Turkey's Parliament, known as the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi).

There are 550 members of Parliament, who are elected for four-year terms from 85 electoral districts. You can see the 25th (current) Parliament of Turkey listed here.

A political party must win over 10% of total votes in order to be represented in Parliament. This is a high threshold - the highest of any country - and has been criticised internationally. Nevertheless, four parties acheived the threshold in the 2015 general election. In addition, it is possible for independent candidates to run. They don't need to meet the threshold.

Elections in Turkey

General elections in Turkey

General elections choose the 550 members of the Turkish Parliament. They come from 85 electoral districts - the number of MPs from each depends on the population. You can see the 25th (current) Parliament of Turkey listed here.

Presidential elections in Turkey

These are run on a two-round system. lightbulb image A candidate must win 50%+1 of the vote to become president. If no candidate makes the threshold, the top two candidates will compete in a 'run off' election to determine the winner.

Local elections in Turkey

These elect Metropolitan and District Mayors, Municipal and Provincial Councillors, neighbourhood presidents and village councils. The latter two categories rarely run with any political allegiance.

Political parties of Turkey

AKP

AKP logoThe Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi).

CHP

CHP logoThe Republican People's Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi).

HDP

HDP logoThe Peoples' Democratic Party (Halkların Demokratik Partisi).

MHP

MHP logoThe Nationalist Movement Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi).

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

Atatürk maintains such a cult status in Turkey that it would be remiss not to briefly explain his role in the country's history.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded the Republic of Turkey out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.

He lead the country from 1923 until his death in 1938, and changed the social and political landscape of the region with incredible speed.

Atatürk believed that Turkey should be a secular country, and implemented reforms to keep Islam and the law of Turkey separate. He said:

We must liberate our concepts of justice, our laws and our legal institutions from the bonds which, even though they are incompatible with the needs of our century, still hold a tight grip on us.

Atatürk abolished the caliphate and the ministry of canon law and pious foundations; closed religious courts and schools; lifted the ban on alcohol; and made Sunday a day of rest instead of Friday.

Other reforms were to Westernise and modernise the country. Turkey under Atatürk adopted the Gregorian calendar; reformed existing universities and opened new ones; founded academic institutions; introduced surnames (his own was given to him, and him alone, and means 'Father of the Turks') - basically, it established Turkey's place in the modern world.

Atatürk also achieved peace with long-time enemy Greece, a fact which ensures his popularity in Greece as well as Turkey!

Learn more here.

Critics of the AKP's current regime point out that the government has undone much of what Atatürk set in place. Only today (22 February 2017), Turkey reversed the ban on female army officers' wearing the hijab headscarf - the last Turkish institution to do so.

Expats' Tips

Email office@guides.global with your thoughts on Turkish voting and politics.

Conclusion

Turkey is a fractured country when it comes to politics, which mirrors the social and religious views of the people. The current government is accused of being authoritarian and going contrary to the principles that Turkey was founded on - but it does reflect the values of many Turkish citizens.

Other guides of interest

 Description Link 
Turkey Country Guide
Essential facts and figures about Turkey
Click to see this guide
Cultural Differences in Turkey
Culture shocks you may experience in day-to-day life and in the business world.
Click to see this guide

Readers' Comments

 

Further information?

I hope you have found this guide useful. If you need any further help, please contact me.

Francine Carrel

22 February 2017


 

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