Turkish ex-minister suggests plan to lower presidential election threshold

(Recasts and changes have been made to accurately reflect the comments made by President Erdoğan, who was quoted inaccurately by a source used in the previous version. Erdoğan did not say his party would bring the issue of lowering the threshold in presidential elections to parliament.)

A former minister for Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has suggested a plan that would lower the vote share required for a candidate to win presidential elections in the first round.

Turkey’s current system stipulates that presidential election can have either one or two rounds. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round, that candidate is declared the winner.

Faruk Çelik, who has held two ministerial posts in previous AKP governments and is currently a board member in the state-owned Ziraat Bank, told local Turkish newspaper Olay yesterday that the candidate that “receives 40 percent or more should be elected Turkish president in the first round of the polls.” 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is still by far the country's most popular politician, though the AKP's defeats in local elections this year, amid a period of tight economic conditions, are considered a serious blow to his government.

Erdoğan’s AKP, which has ruled Turkey for 17 years, suffered its greatest upset to date in the March local elections, losing five of Turkey’s most populous provinces, including Istanbul and Ankara, to the main opposition party.

However, the president said any proposals to change the system were a matter for the opposition to raise in parliament when asked about Çelik's comments.

"Whatever the opposition brings to the table, we're ready and willing to evaluate and discuss it," Erdoğan said.

Çelik's comments arrive as leading Turkish polling companies, such as Ankara-based Konda, registered an almost 10 point drop in his approval rating over the past year. Turkey’s strongman currently maintains 44 percent support, Konda said, according to a survey conducted in September.

"AKP is at its lowest level of core supporters,’’ Konda head Bekir Ağırdır said during a TV programme earlier this week. 

Ağırdır said that half of Turkey’s young population maintain the country’s problems cannot be solved with the current political actors and AKP supporters would say no to a presidential system if there were a referendum held today.

Turkey’s June 2018 elections ushered in a new executive presidential system in which the prime minister's post is eliminated and executive powers are transferred to the president, who rules with only limited checks and balances.

Turkey's next presidential election is set to take place in 2023.