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Political Parties

The current political system in Turkey was established following the September 1980 coup. Immediately following the coup, the military government arrested Turkey's leading politicians, dissolved the bicameral Grand National Assembly, declared martial law, and banned all political activity. In October 1981, all political parties then in existence were disbanded and their property and financial assets confiscated by the state. New political parties were allowed to form in 1983 as long as founding members were not leaders or members of Parliament attached to any pre- 1980 political parties.

Of 145 parties established since the 1980 coup, the Constituional Court closed down 24 (two more parties were shut down before the court was established in 1961); the court rejected the request to shut down 16 parties. Only two parties facing closure survived the process (Hak-Par and Baris Partisi). The 24 other political parties have been closed include the AKP’s predecessor parties, the Welfare Party (1998) and the Virtue Party (2001), both closed for ‘threatening the secular order’.

In April 1983, the Turkish National Security Council (NSC), a five-member collective body representing all branches of the armed forces, issued regulations for the formation of new political parties in anticipation of elections for a new single-chamber National Assembly to be held later that year. These new parties could have no ties to the disbanded parties.

Parties were invited to form so as to contest parliamentary elections later in the year but were required to receive approval from the military rulers. Of fifteen parties requesting certification, only three received approval: the Motherland Party (Anavatan Partisi--ANAP), the Populist Party (Halkçi Partisi--HP), and the Nationalist Democracy Party (Milliyetçi Demokrasi Partisi--MDP), the latter being the clear favorite of the military.

In conformity with conditions set forth in the law, every Turkish citizen upon the age of 18 has the right to vote, to be elected, and to engage in political activities independently or in a political party, and to take part in referendums. Privates and corporals serving in the armed services, students in military schools, and convicts in penal institutions cannot vote.

Elections in Turkey are single stage. According to a proportional representation system, general, equal and secret ballot elections are held throughout the country on the same day under judicial administration and supervision. The related law outlines the requirements for Turkish citizens living abroad to vote. The voter casts his vote in full freedom. The counting, recording and detailed presentation of votes are done publicly. Every province is an election area and every alderman's office is an election precinct.

According to the election law in Turkey, parties obtaining 10 percent of the votes throughout the country in general elections enter parliament.

Citizens over 18 years of age have the right to form political parties, and to join and withdraw from them in accordance with established procedure. Judges and prosecutors, members of higher judicial organs, teaching staff at institutions of higher education, members of the Higher Education Council, civil servants in public organizations and corporations, and other public employees not regarded as workers on account of the duties they perform, students, and members of the Armed Forces, shall not become members of political parties.

Prior permission to form a political party is not required. Parties are allowed to function freely in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and related laws which state that the internal workings and decisions of political parties must conform to democratic precepts.

A political party consists of its central organs, provincial and country organizations and the party group in Parliament. All political parties must establish headquarters in Ankara. In order to establish a political party, the signatures of at least 30 Turkish citizens, eligible for election to Parliament, are required. The highest authority within the political party is its general council. The central organization consists of the general council, the leader of the party, the central decisionmaking and executive boards, the disciplinary board and its caucus.

Political parties must meet stringent requirements in order to participate in elections, including the submission of a full list of candidates and organizational structures in at least half of the provinces.7 Joint candidate lists are not permitted. Under the law, political parties are prohibited from promoting a number of political ideologies, including non-secularism, separatism, and the existence of minorities. These restrictions undermine the freedoms of association and expression, and limit political pluralism.

To qualify for seat allocation, political parties must surpass the national electoral threshold of 10 per cent of valid votes cast. The threshold is a subject of public discussion. In December 2014, the CHP submitted a bill to lower the threshold to three per cent, but it failed to pass. In 2014, three non-parliamentary parties lodged separate petitions with the Constitutional Court challenging the threshold. On 5 March 2015, the court refused jurisdiction in the cases on grounds that challenges to legislation cannot be the subject of individual petitions.

To qualify for seat allocation, political parties must surpass the national electoral threshold of 10 per cent of valid votes cast. The threshold is a subject of public discussion. In December 2014, the CHP submitted a bill to lower the threshold to three per cent, but it failed to pass. In 2014, three non-parliamentary parties lodged separate petitions with the Constitutional Court challenging the threshold. On 5 March 2015, the court refused jurisdiction in the cases on grounds that challenges to legislation cannot be the subject of individual petitions.

The major financial crises that Turkey experienced in 2000-2001 was the deepest crisis Turkey had experienced in its recent history. The three parties that made up the coalition government which had come into office after the April 1999 saw a collapse in their electoral support. The leading party in the coalition government, the Democratic Left Party (the DSP) led by Bülent Ecevit experienced a total collapse. The Nationalist Action Party (the MHP) and the Motherland Party (the ANAP) also experienced dramatic declines in their electoral base. By the next general election in November 2002, none of the three members of the coalition government were able to reach the ten percent threshold of the vote, and were effectively excluded from participation in parliamentary politics.

Center-Left Parties

Republican People's Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi -- CHP) was founded in the 1920s and led by Atatürk until his death in 1938. Headed by Bülent Ecevit in the 1970s, it was one of the major parties prior to the 1980 coup. A majority of its deputies ultimately regrouped in the left-of-center Socialist Democratic Populist Party (SHP). The party was reactivated by Deniz Baykal in 1992. In 1995 when the SHP dissolved itself, many members joined the CHP.

Social Democratic Populist Party: In early 1995, the junior partner in the Çiller government was the Social Democratic Populist Party, known by the Turkish acronym SHP, for Sosyal Demokrat Halkçi Parti. The SHP was one of several parties formed since 1983 that presented itself as an heir to the CHP. In fact, the SHP leader, Erdal Inönü, was the son of Ismet Inönü, a close associate of Atatürk and a cofounder of the CHP. The SHP had been created in 1985 when Inönü's Sodep (disqualified by the military from participating in the 1983 parliamentary elections) merged with Necdet Calp's Populist Party, which had been allowed to take part in the 1983 elections and had won the second largest number of assembly seats.

The Democratic Left Party, known by the Turkish acronym DSP (for Demokratik Sol Partisi), was the smallest parliamentary party in January 1995. Because the party received almost 11 percent of the vote in the 1991 elections, DSP leader Bülent Ecevit and six other party officials took seats in the National Assembly. Ecevit considered the DSP the legitimate successor to the CHP, which he headed prior to the 1980 coup. When the DSP was founded in November 1985--with Ecevit's wife serving as chair because he remained barred from political activity -- Ecevit made known his low opinion of the SHP, which also presented itself as the heir to the CHP, and its leader, Erdal Inönü. Ecevit's personal animosity toward Inönü prevented DSP-SHP cooperation, even though the parties had similar programs and appealed to the same constituency. In both 1987 and 1991, Ecevit spurned efforts by Inönü and other SHP leaders to persuade him to join an electoral alliance. Ecevit condemned the SHP's participation in the Demirel and Çiller governments as evidence that the party had abandoned social-democratic principles and betrayed the working class.

The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP - Halklarin Demokratik Partisi) was officially founded in 2012 and became politically activated in October 27, 2013 after holding its first extraordinary congress. The HDP was formed as a political wing of the Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK), an association that includes numerous leftist and Kurdish groups. Thus, it was established with the aim of gathering various and diverse cultural and political movements under the roof of freedom and democracy and intended to appear as a party of Turkey rather than a pro-Kurdish party. HDP historically attracted between 5 and 6 percent of the vote. In 2015 anti-AKP voters were strategically aligning their vote with the HDP (in lieu of other opposition parties), hoping to keep the anti-establishment spirit of the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Istanbul alive at the ballot boxes. The HDP was the biggest party supporter of the protests.

Far-Right Parties

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi): (also translated as 'Nationalist Action Party') (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi (MHP)), is an ultra-nationalist - conservative political party in Turkey. In the July 22nd, 2007 legislative elections, the party won 14.3% of the national vote and 71 seats in the parliament. In the previous legislative elections of Nov. 3, 2002 the party gained no seats as it had only won 8.3% of the national vote.

Center-Right Parties

Justice Party (Adalet Partisi -- AP) was established in 1961 following the Menderes coup. It was led by retired Army General and former Chief of the General Staff, Ragip Gümüspala. It was one of two major political parties leading up to the September 1980 coup. It was led by Süleyman Demirel at the time of its dissolution. Following its dissolution by the National Security Council, many of its members subsequently joined the Motherland Party or the True Path Party.

Motherland Party: (Anavatan Partisi -- ANAP) was the main parliamentary opposition party in 1995, after having served as the governing party from 1983 to 1991. Turgut Özal founded the Motherland Party in May 1983, and his personality and energy were instrumental to the party's subsequent success. Even after Özal officially resigned as party leader in 1989 to become president, his influence,and that of his wife and brothers, continued in Motherland Party affairs. For example, Özal handpicked his successor as party leader, Yildirim Akbulut. However, after Akbulut proved ineffective, both as party chair and as prime minister, Özal pressured him to resign in June 1991. In anticipation of the forthcoming parliamentary elections, Özal approved the younger and more dynamic Mesut Yilmaz as Akbulut's successor. Yilmaz campaigned energetically, used his position as prime minister to woo voters with incentives such as wage increases for public-sector employees, and performed well against other political leaders in Turkey's first-ever televised political debate. However, the Motherland Party's total share of the national vote in the October 1991 balloting fell by 12 percent compared to 1987, and the party won sixty-three fewer assembly seats than its rival, the True Path Party.

True Path Party: In January 1995, the True Path Party (Dogru Yol Partisi--DYP) was the senior partner in Turkey's coalition government. It was a continuation of the Justice Party, and its leader from 1987 until 1993 was Demirel. Because Demirel was barred from political activity prior to late 1987, his close associate, Hüsamettin Cindoruk, became the party's titular chair when the True Path Party was established in 1983. However, Demirel was the driving force behind the party, raising money and campaigning on its behalf despite being banned from political action. Demirel promoted economic policies similar to those he had advocated as leader of the Justice Party, updated, however, to reflect changing economic conditions resulting from international political developments between 1989 and 1991.

Democratic Party (Turkish: Demokrat Parti, DP) is a right-wing, conservative Turkish political party, established by Suleyman Demirel in 1983 as the True Path Party (Turkish: Dogru Yol Partisi or DYP). It succeeded the historical Democratic Party and the Justice Party - two parties with similar ideologies which were closed as a result of the military intervention in September 1980. There have been four DYP governments since its foundation; one led by Demirel, the other three by Turkey's first woman prime minister, Tansu Çiller. By 2007 the party had only 4 seats in parliament after faring badly in elections when many voters defected to the similarly-conservative, albeit also moderate Islamist, Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Islamist Parties

Welfare Party: The Welfare Party (Refah Partisi--RP), which had received only 7 percent of the total vote in the 1987 parliamentary elections and thus had not qualified for assembly seats, was the main electoral surprise in the 1991 balloting. Nearly 17 percent of the electorate voted for the Welfare Party, enabling it to win sixty-two seats in the National Assembly. The Welfare Party was widely considered an Islamic party. Its leader, Necmettin Erbakan, had been identified with Islamic political activism since the early 1970s. He was the founder in 1972 of the National Salvation Party (Milli Selamet Partisi--MSP), which became the third largest party in parliament in 1973. The MSP openly supported a religious political agenda calling for the restoration of traditional "morals and virtues" and a reduction of economic ties to the Christian countries of Western Europe. In 1974 the MSP gained a measure of political legitimacy by participating in a CHP-led coalition government. In fact, Turgut Özal briefly was a member of the MSP in the 1970s and was at one time an unsuccessful candidate on its parliamentary list. The Welfare Party, which formed a coalition government with the True Path Party which had 158 seats in the TGNA in the 1995 elections, was closed down by the Constitutional Court in January of 1998 because the party was based on religious ideology, and had made radical religious declarations and undertaken such actions in violation of the secular Republic. The deputies which were left without a party joined the Virtue Party (FP) established at the end of 1997.

Justice and Development Party (AKP) After winning parliamentary elections in July 2007, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) will be in power for another five years. The AKP solidified its power with 341 of the 550 seats in Parliament, the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) kept only 97 seats. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan kept his position, and the parliament elected Abdullah Gul, former Foreign Minister, as President in August 2007. European Union (EU) membership has been a primary goal of the AKP government, and significant social and economic reforms have taken place during their administration. The EU accession process began in December 2005 and has not proceeded smoothly; it will likely continue at least until 2015. There is concern in Turkey and in the EU about the future of the accession process. Although potentially a significant contribution to economic modernization, the cost and difficulty of implementing the agriculture section of the EU Acquis will be an enormous challenge. Continuing terrorism by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Kurdish independence-seeking group in Southeast Turkey, continues to unsettle the country. Turkey has used military force in Northern Iraq in an effort to weaken the PKK threat.

Kurdish Parties

People's Democratic Party (HDP) The pro-Kurdish HDP, which entered Turkish parliament in 2015 as the country’s third-largest party with 59 lawmakers, has denied being a front for the PKK. Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party announced 06 November 2016 that it is withdrawing from parliament after the unprecedented arrests of nine of its lawmakers, including the party's two co-leaders. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called on the HDP in a televised speech to “return from this mistake before it's too late,” adding that they may say whatever they want in parliament “but no politician can be a shield to terror by abusing their position.” Turkey drew international condemnation following the arrests of HDP co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag on terrorism-related charges, along with seven other lawmakers. The absence of its deputies could enable Erdogan to push through his vision of a presidential system which the HDP has always vehemently opposed.

Democratic Society Party (DTP) Democratic Society Party (Demokratik Toplum Partisi (DTP), was created in 2005 and in the 22 July 2007 general elections, it managed to elect 21 members to parliament in spite of being compelled to run as independents to avoid violating political party laws. In 2006, Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals instigated law suits to close the DTP. The Constitutional Court ruled on 11 December 2009 to close the Democratic Society Party (DTP) because of their organic connection with the terrorist Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK).

Peace and Democracy Party BDP Peace and Democracy Party - the Pro-Kurdish BDP won 36 seats in the elections in June 2011, eleven of them are women. Nine of them work as MP’s today, two are in jail. BDP is a member of Party of European Socialists.

Other Parties

Several small parties existed in early 1995. Two post-1991 splinters from parliamentary parties included Unity and Peace (Birlik ve Baris), whose members left the Welfare Party in 1992, and the Freedom and Labor Party (OZEP), formed from a breakaway faction of the SHP in 1992. The Nationalist Labor Party (Milliyetçi Çalisma Partisi--MÇP), founded in 1985 by the controversial nationalist of the 1970s, Alparslan Türkes, espoused pan-Turkism in foreign policy and cooperated with the Welfare Party in domestic politics. Deniz Baykel, a politician disillusioned by the partisan sniping between the SHP and the True Path Party, announced the reactivation of the CHP in September 1992 and called on its former members to rejoin. Thirteen SHP deputies joined the new CHP, providing it with an immediate base in the National Assembly. The former Democrat Party, banned following the 1960 coup, also was reactivated in 1992. It consisted of politicians who supported the economic policies of the Motherland Party and the True Path Party but distrusted both Özal and Demirel.

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Page last modified: 10-11-2016 10:35:32 ZULU