Opposition deputy proposes new constituency for diaspora voters

Main opposition Republican People’s Party Deputy Chairman Bülent Tezcan submitted a draft bill to institute a new electoral district for all overseas votes in parliamentary elections, daily Cumhuriyet reported on Saturday.

Tezcan is also proposing to allocate 15 deputies to the new constituency, for Turkish citizens living abroad to be represented in parliament.

Under current rules, votes from eligible citizens living abroad are distributed evenly among provinces, independent of where they were cast.

The bill would affect an estimated five million citizens.

If the bill passes, political parties would put up overseas candidates in the same way they do for each of Turkey’s 81 provinces. Voters would be able to vote for specific candidates instead of the current system of voting for the general party.

Overseas deputies would be incentivised and better equipped to deal with issues citizens face while living abroad, Tezcan said in the draft.

Citizens living abroad can vote in parliamentary and presidential elections at more than 120 diplomatic missions in 60 countries. Overseas votes are vital for parties struggling with Turkey’s extremely high electoral threshold of 10 percent.

Critics of the current system say the proportionate allocation of overseas votes favours bigger parties while disadvantaging smaller ones.

In the June 7 elections in 2015, at least three seats changed hands when overseas votes were allocated, according to Bianet.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) are the two parties most affected by how the votes are counted, as both have wide voter bases among the Turkish and Kurdish diaspora, particularly in Europe.

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