GÖKSEL BOZKURT - MUSTAFA OĞUZ
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News
A recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights to reconfirm its earlier decision that a 10 percent election threshold is not a violation of the European Convention of Human Rights has resulted in considerable discussion among political parties.
The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, indicated a threshold reduction might still be considered despite the ruling by the European Court. Nihat Ergün, AKP deputy group parliamentary leader, told the Turkish Daily News yesterday that the election threshold does not work every time, although it serves to preserve stability in the government and offers a just method for representation. �We have seen that the threshold is overcome by independent candidates. It cannot remain at 10 percent just because the court decided to do so,� Ergün argued, and added that it might be lowered, if necessary.
The ruling was most adamantly defended by the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, whose parliamentary party deputy leader, Oktay Vural, emphasized that the threshold must be kept at 10 percent. �European Union progress reports have a flawed approach to the issue as they assess the 10 percent threshold in the context of protecting minority rights. (However,) the threshold is necessary to maintain political stability,� he said.
The main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, has a similar view to that of the MHP. Although some CHP spokesmen are warm to a rational reduction of the election threshold percentage, its group parliamentary deputy leader, Hakkı Süha Okay, confirmed that his party's position remains intact.
The most vehement opposition to the court ruling came from the Democratic People's Party's, or DEHAP, successor, the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP. Its Şırnak deputy, Hasip Kaplan, claimed that the court does not actually approve of the 10 percent number. �The European Court allows individual jurisdictions to decide on the 10 percent threshold. I think the court wants Turkey to keep the threshold at a reasonable level,� Kaplan argued, saying 3 percent would be a just level.
Court indirectly calls for a reduction, says law expert
Though CHP and MHP members interpreted the verdict as a backing of the threshold by the Strasbourg-based court, there is another interpretation of what European jurists decided, an international law expert said. Yüksel İnan, a professor of International Law at Bilkent University, noted that though the decision itself does not stigmatize the threshold, it also does not mean it completely agrees with its preservation. �The essence of the opinion is that every country, within the system of free elections, may determine certain criteria to preserve political stability,� İnan told the TDN. �However, it also emphasizes that the 10 percent threshold is the highest in Europe,� he added. �It calls on Turkey, in an indirect way, to reduce election threshold percentages,� İnan said.
The court noted that the threshold in Turkey is the highest in Europe, followed by 8 percent in Liechtenstein and 7 percent in Russia and Georgia.