05 May, 2007

The Biter Bit

I have been reading about electoral systems in the Middle East. These are typically used by regimes to mimimise the amount of seats won by the opposition in elections (usually in conjunction with other measures, like throwing opposition activists or candidates in jail, banning some of the opposition parties, or straightforwardly rigging the election results). My current favourite regime manoeuvre is one used in Egypt at one point. They had a list system of proportional representation, but with a high threshold of 8% - any party getting less than that proportion of the vote got no seats in the parliament (this at a time when the opposition was rather fragmented). The stroke of genius was a ruling that any votes for parties getting less than the threshold were to be counted as votes for the goverrning party.

Turkey either is or is not in the Middle East, depending on who you talk to. They are having some interesting political stuff at the moment. The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to make Abdullah Gul, one of his party colleagues the country's president. As the president is chosen by the parliament, and as Erdogan's Justice & Development party has a handsome parliamentary majority, there should be no problem here... except that Justice & Development is an Islamist party, and Turkey's army does not like the idea of an Islamist president and prime minister.

Some have apparently taken to complaining that although the governing party has a massive majority in parliament, they achieved this on on something puny like only 30% of the popular vote. Amusingly, they managed this because the country has a comedic electoral system specifically designed to weaken the Islamists.

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