Center for Global & International Studies, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Media advisory: Expert on Turkish politics can speak about national elections

Friday, May 29, 2015

LAWRENCE – As Turkey’s June 7 parliamentary elections draw international attention, a University of Kansas expert is available to comment on the country’s political landscape.

F. Michael Wuthrich, assistant director at the University of Kansas Center for Global and International Studies, is the author of the book “National Elections in Turkey: People, Politics, and the Party System,” which Syracuse University Press will release in September. The book examines Turkey’s national elections from 1950 to 2011.

Wuthrich points to two significant shifts in Turkish politics that will influence voters next month.

Recent polls have shown Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (A.K.P.) dropping in popularity. Although in Turkey, law and tradition insist that the president of the Republic must sever official ties to any political party, the current president and de facto leader and co-founder of the A.K.P, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was prime minister for more than a decade, is working to amass a supermajority for his party. If the A.K.P receives more than 330 seats in the 550 member parliamentary assembly, the party could unilaterally instigate a constitutional change of the country’s government from a parliamentary to a presidential system through a referendum giving Erdoğan more power.

And, unlike the previous two elections, Kurdish Party candidates have decided to run as a party, not independents, in hopes of reaching the national 10 percent threshold needed to win a seat in parliament. If they don’t reach the 10 percent threshold, Wuthrich said nearly 50 additional seats would likely go to the Justice and Development Party. 

Wuthrich sees three potential scenarios unfolding:

  • The least likely outcome would be for the Justice and Development Party to win 47 to 48 percent of the vote and for the Kurdish Party not to pass the 10 percent threshold. That outcome would bring the Justice and Development Party close to the 330 seats needed for constitutional change through popular referendum, Wuthrich said, allowing the party to make significant changes, such as switching the country from a parliamentary to a presidential system.
  • If the Justice and Development Party were to bring in 43 percent of the vote, a frequent number showing up in polls, or lower and the Kurdish Party passes the 10 percent threshold, the A.K.P could lose their power as a majority government and then a coalition government would have to be formed. “The vast majority of Turks don’t want a coalition government, because coalition governments in Turkey have been a nightmare in the past. Nothing gets done, and there has tended to be a lot of strange coalition bedfellows,” Wuthrich said.
  • The most likely scenario, and the one that brings the least amount of change, would be for the Justice and Development Party to bring in 43 to 45 percent of the vote and for the Kurdish Party to not pass the 10 percent threshold. The A.K.P would still remain a majority government, but it wouldn’t be able to implement the massive changes that a supermajority of 330 seats in parliament would allow. “The status quo would be maintained,” Wuthrich said.

Wuthrich points to similar election environments in the 1950s, when one party controlled government across three elections, and the 1970s, where there was a high level of social polarization.

“In previous times, when things got to the way they are now, there would be a military coup that would reset the system,” Wuthrich said. “So, nobody knows what would have happened in the next election had the coup not occurred. Well, this is that next election, so it will be interesting to see what the people of Turkey decide.” 


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