Turkey election: Your guide to how the electoral system works

There are more than 64 million eligible voters in Turkey, including close to five million first-time voters.

Turkey elections
Local official Cuneyt Ofkeli checks voting lists in Antakya, the worst-hit Turkish city in February's earthquakes that killed more than 50,000 people, in Hatay province, Turkey May 3, 2023 [Umit Bektas/Reuters]

More than 64 million people are eligible to vote in Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan facing his toughest test in 20 years.

There are nearly five million first-time voters in the high-stakes elections, and the number of Turks abroad who could vote until May 9 crossed 3.4 million.

Here’s everything you need to know about how the electoral system works:

What kind of political system does Turkey have?

  • Turkey transitioned from a parliamentary to a presidential system in July 2018, a month after Erdogan won the presidential election.
  • The powers of the president were broadened after a 2017 referendum approving the change to an executive presidency.
  • The post of prime minister was abolished and the president also became the head of government.
  • In the new system, voters elect the president directly.
Interative_Turkey_elections_2023_5_How voting works
(Al Jazeera)

How often are elections held?

  • Turkey holds simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections every five years.
  • The 2023 polls, initially scheduled for June 18, were brought forward to May 14.

Who can run for president?

    • A potential candidate must be a Turkish citizen, at least 40 years old and have a bachelor’s degree.
    • Candidates are nominated by parties that received at least 5 percent of votes in the previous parliamentary polls or have 20 seats in parliament.
    • A presidential hopeful could also seek a nomination by collecting 100,000 signatures of support from citizens.

How does a presidential candidate win?

  • A candidate needs more than 50 percent of votes in the first round to win outright.
  • If no one crosses the 50-percent mark, the top two candidates will go head to head in a run-off two weeks later, with this year’s vote set for May 28.

How do the parliamentary elections work?

interactive on how parliament works

  • Elections for the 600 members of the National Assembly, as the Turkish parliament is known, are carried out through a system of proportional representation, so Turks vote for party lists rather than candidates and the seat numbers correspond to votes cast per party rather than alliances.
  • The 600 members represent 87 electoral districts in 81 provinces.
  • Electoral districts are allocated parliamentary seats in proportion to their population.
  • To enter parliament, a party needs to get 7 percent of the vote, or be part of an alliance that does.
  • Candidates must be at least 18 years old.
  • To obtain a parliamentary majority, a party or alliance must hold more than half, or 301, of the seats.

Turkey’s current parliament

  • Erdogan’s Adalet ve Kalkınma Party (Justice and Development, AK) has 285 seats.
  • The AK Party’s ally, the far-right Milliyetçi Hareket Party (Nationalist Movement, MHP), has 48.
  • The main opposition, centre-left Cumhuriyet Halk Party (Republican People’s Party, CHP) has 134 MPs.
  • The CHP’s centre-right ally, the Iyi Party (Good) has 36 legislators.
  • The pro-Kurdish Halkların Demokratik Party (People’s Democratic Party, HDP) has 56 lawmakers.

What happened in 2022?

  • In April 2022, the election threshold was reduced from 10 percent to 7 percent after a law was passed by parliament.
  • The law changed the way seats are distributed among member parties of an alliance.
  • Parliamentary seats were previously allocated according to the total votes received by an alliance. Now, the seats will be allocated according to the votes that a party receives individually.
  • Alliances are therefore used so that parties can surpass the election threshold. This also pits parties within an alliance against one another.
  • The AK Party is part of the Cumhur İttifakı (People’s Alliance) whose parties are fighting the election separately, while the CHP is part of the six-party Millet İttifakı (Nation Alliance).
Source: Al Jazeera