Turkey is getting ready for the next presidential election. Universal, equal and free voting with the use of a secret ballot are the democratic principles of the right to vote. The 1982 Constitution provides these principles with a special judicial guarantee. The election monitoring process has been differentiated from the general judiciary in all its stages, and has been left to a different judicial organization consisting of district election boards, provincial election boards and the Supreme Election Board (SEB), which is also constitutionally empowered with electoral management. This judicial organization, which is responsible for the fairness and integrity of all election procedures, constitutes the judicial guarantee of the democratic principles of the right to vote. Having said that the elections in Turkey are held under unfair conditions due to the government control of the media, misuse of state resources and the vast powers that the executive has over the judicial authorities.
The 2023 presidency and parliamentary general election follows the implementation of significant constitutional amendments adopted in 2017, which came into force with the 2018 early presidential and parliamentary elections, converting the government from a parliamentary to presidential system.
Election legal framework
Elections are regulated by the 1982 Constitution, 1961 Law on Basic Provisions for Elections and Voter Registers, 1983 Law on Parliamentary Elections, 2012 Law on Presidential Elections, 1983 Law on Political Parties and 1983 Law on Meetings and Demonstrations. Türkey is a party to major international and regional human rights instruments related to the conduct of democratic elections.
The electoral legal framework was most recently revised in March 2022 by Law no. 7393, which introduced several amendments to various electoral and political party laws. The amendments included several notable changes, such as lowering the electoral threshold for parliamentary elections, revising the methods of determining parliamentary seat allocation and political party eligibility, and updating campaign limitations for public officials, procedures for the appointment of electoral boards and certain aspects of voter registration.
Presidential Elections Statute
The Presidential Elections Statute numbered 6271, adopted on 19’th January 2012, regulate methods and principles of elections of President, specifications of presidential candidates, transactions that should be undertaken prior to elections, on election day and after election. Supreme Election Council determines and announces electoral calendar exofficio in order that election is completed within the periods provided for in belowmentioned norms.
Constitutional amendment of 2017
The Constitutional amendment of 2017, made under conditions of a state of emergency regime, has introduced a new system the presidential system of government named “Turkish-style presidential system”. The governmental system brought about by the constitutional amendment does not in any way resemble a standard presidential system. There is a strict separation of powers in the presidential system, which is absent from Turkey’s Presidential System. The checks and balances are completely bypassed. The President has the power to renew the elections, to appoint vice presidents and ministers, senior government officials and members to the Council of Judges and Prosecutors; these powers are not checked by any other body, they are unlimited and unconditional. The party-member presidency came into effect with the Constitutional Amendments of 2017, as a result, the President is not above party politics anymore, but a major arbiter of everyday politics.
The Parliament’s power over the budget, another important check against the executive, has also lost its efficacy. The powers of the Parliament regarding the Budget Law have been limited. If the Budget Law Proposal, presented by the President, is not discussed and put into effect in time by the Parliament, the budget of the previous year will be adapted to the current year’s inflation and put into effect. In this way, the executive will never be without a budget; the legislature will not be able to use the budget as a check and balance against the executive, and it will be ineffectual with regards to the budget as far as the President is concerned.
Presidential election of 2018
The “Presidential System of Government” has came into effect as a result of Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections of 2018 which took place under the state of emergency regime.
Authority v. individual freedoms
Even prior to the adoption of the Presidential System of Government, the 1982 constitution bestowed a great deal of power on the executive and the President as a result of the political conditions that produced it, in order to provide stability; it did so to such a degree that the executive overshadowed the other powers. The constitution favours authority as opposed to individual freedoms; this is particularly revealed by the excessive power bestowed by it to the executive, and to the President’s authority. This power reveals itself exponentially during times of state of emergency.
The adoption of the Presidential System of Government in Turkey is negative development in terms of the principles of democracy, the area of rights and freedoms, and the rule of law.
Turkey is facing a series of very serious dilemmas regarding democratic governance. For the large part these dilemmas are caused by the Constitution’s authoritarian contents, or even the process of “deconstitutionalisation”. Pressure groups and social opposition balance political rule in democratic governance; their underdevelopment is one of the fundamental deficiencies of Turkey’s democracy. The electoral system and the regime of political parties stand in the way of democratic politics and so democratic governance. The parliamentary majority is weakened through the electoral system and the regime of political parties, and the opposition cannot fulfil its function of negotiation.
Under Turkey’s Presidential System of Government, the horizontal separation of powers, especially where the legislative and the judicial branches are concerned, is largely lost.
General principles to be implemented in election
President is elected by public. The election is executed equal and secret ballot on the same day throughout the country under the management and monitoring of jurisdiction. The voting of the Turkish citizens living overseas is undertaken The voter casts his/her vote himself and in full freedom. Counting, tabulating and preparing minutes for the votes are made in open. Supreme Election Council, from the beginning till the end of elections, is authorized to make or to have it made all necessary transactions for the proper management and honesty of elections, to take necessary principal decisions, when considered necessary to shorten all durations defined in laws, and to determine and announce.
Electoral period, starting of electoral period, and end of elections
Elections for President and the Turkish Grand National Assembly is made on the same day every five years. One person can be elected as President two times at most. However, in the event that the Assembly decides to renew elections in the second term of the President, the President may stand for elections one more time. The last Sunday before the end of the tenure of President and the Turkish Grand National Assembly is voting day. Tenure is determined based on the previous election date made together. The first day of sixty-day period counted backwards starting from the voting day is the starting date of election.
In the event that it is decided to renew elections, this decision is announced by being published in Official Gazette in forty-eight hours. Election for President and general election for the Turkish Grand National Assembly are made collectively on the first Sunday following the sixtieth day coming after this decision is made. In the event that Presidential position is emptied for any reason and there is one year or less time left to general election for the Turkish Grand National Assembly, Presidential election is made on the first Sunday following the sixtieth day coming after the position is emptied, with general elections of the Turkish Grand National Assembly. In the event that Presidential position is emptied for any reason and there is more than one year left to general election for the Turkish Grand National Assembly, Presidential election is made on the last Sunday within the forty-five days coming after the position is emptied. The President who is elected in this way carries out his duty until the election day of the Turkish Grand National Assembly. This period is not counted as term for the President who completes the period left.
Electoral system and its application
In the election to be made with general ballot, the candidate taking absolute majority of valid votes is elected as President. If this majority cannot be constituted in the first voting, the second voting is made on the second Sunday following this voting. The two candidates taking the most votes in the first voting participate in this voting and the candidate taking the majority of the valid votes is elected as President.
In the event that one of the candidates who has right to participate in the second voting fails to participate in voting for any reason, the second voting is made by substituting the emptied candidacy according to the ranking in the first voting. However, substitution can be made until 17:00 p.m. of the day following announcement of temporary results.
In the event that voting is made with one candidate, it is made as referendum. The candidate taking absolute majority of valid votes is elected as President. In the event that candidate fails to take absolute majority of valid votes, election is renewed and only Presidential election is made on the first Sunday following the forty fifth day coming after announcement of definite results.
In the events that tenure of President is completed or it is decided to renew elections or elections cannot be completed, the existing President continues to duty until new President comes into office.
When one is elected as President, his membership of the Turkish Grand National Assembly ends, if any. Presidential candidates must be at least 40 years of age and have a higher education.
Right to vote
Citizens over 18 years of age have the right to vote, except for citizens declared legally incompetent or banned from public service by court, prisoners convicted of intentional crimes regardless of the severity, and active military personnel,
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