Turkish draft law dampens early election talk

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ANKARA, March 14 (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party and its nationalist MHP allies said on Monday they had presented a draft election law to parliament that analysts said would reduce the likelihood of early elections this year.

The draft law would lower the minimum required votes for a party to enter parliament to 7% from 10%, and adopt new regulations on parliamentary seat distribution in alliances between parties, the AKP and MHP said.

Analysts said the move aims to divide the opposition and earn more seats for the current governing parties.

The bill is likely to become law given the ruling alliance's majority. It would take effect about a year later, suggesting Erdogan - whose opinion polls have touched their lowest in years - could hold off calling an early election.

Before the draft law was introduced, some analysts had said Erdogan might want an earlier vote before a possible further slide in the polls, amid economic turmoil and soaring inflation caused by his push for low interest rates late last year and, more recently, the conflict in Ukraine. read more

But on Monday the AKP and MHP repeated that parliamentary and presidential elections will be held as scheduled in June 2023.

"This means there will not be an early election. But we shall see how effective this step (draft law) is because the opposition will insist on its request" for an earlier vote, said Mehmet Ali Kulat, chairman of MAK Consulting.


Seeking to topple the long-ruling Erdogan, six opposition parties formed an alliance and announced a sweeping new governance plan to be implemented if elected. read more

Under existing law, parties can enter parliament if votes for their alliance exceed 10%.

Lowering the threshold to 7% could serve as a "carrot" to lure smaller parties to defect from the opposition alliance, Kulat said. "The main desire is to divide the opposition. This is the whole aim of the draft law as far as I can see."

Regulatory changes in the distribution of votes would help the AKP-MHP alliance gain more seats with the same percentage of votes, Kulat added. "This affects some 14-15 members of parliament based on the 2018 election results."

Support for the AKP has dipped to around 31% from its 42.6% in the 2018 election, according to recent polls that also show MHP falling to around 7% from 11.1%.

Together they now hold 333 seats in the 600-seat parliament, with one parliamentarian from a third party in their alliance.

The opposition has repeatedly called for early elections, citing mismanagement of the economy with inflation soaring to near 55%.

Reporting by Nevzat Devranoglu and Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Mark Heinrich

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