Electoral Cycle and Electorate

Every four years, Turkey holds an election to choose the members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, the country’s parliament. However, voters are returned to the polls on November 1, 2015, only five months after the previous election because no party had reached an overall majority in the legislature, and the political parties could not form a coalition.

In the November 2015 election, almost 57 million Turkish citizens—of whom nearly 3 million lived abroad—were eligible to cast their votes for the 550-member assembly.

Parliamentary Seats

Under Turkey’s system of party-list proportional representation, voters express their preference for a party, rather than for individual candidates. Parliamentary seats are allocated according to the d’Hondt method.

To form a government, a party needs to secure a simple majority in the parliament, consisting of at least 276 out of 550 seats. If a party wants to change the country’s constitution, it needs either 330 votes to initiate a referendum on the proposed amendments or 367 votes to amend the constitution via a parliamentary procedure.

The AKP won a simple majority in the November 2015 election (see figure 1).

Electoral Districts

Turkey is divided into 85 electoral districts: one for each of the country’s 81 provinces, plus two additional districts for Istanbul, one for Ankara, and one for Izmir. Each district is represented by between two and 31 members of parliament, in proportion to the district’s population. The country’s electoral council conducts population reviews of each district before an election and can adjust a district’s number of seats according to the latest census.

As the number of registered voters per seat differs significantly from one district to another, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe assessed in 2015 that Turkey’s electoral system “is inconsistent with the principle of equality of the vote.”

Threshold for Representation

A political party needs to win at least 10 percent of the vote at the national level to enter the parliament. A party may therefore come first in a particular electoral district but not gain representation in the parliament. In this case, the votes for that party in the district in question are discarded, and the district’s seats are allocated to those parties that managed to clear the 10 percent hurdle nationally.

The 10 percent threshold for parliamentary representation is the highest in any member country of the Council of Europe.

The threshold does not apply to independent candidates. In 2011, the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) used this loophole strategically by fielding candidates as independents and then forming a bloc of 35 seats in the parliament.

This page was last updated on November 6, 2015.