[JURIST] Turkey may legally require a political party to win at least 10 percent of the national vote in parliamentary elections in order to win seats in the country's National Assembly, the European Court of Human Rights [official website] ruled Tuesday. Two Turkish politicians, both ethnic Kurds, had challenged the 10 percent requirement as a violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms [text], which guarantees the right to fair elections for signatory nations:
The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature.At oral arguments in September, the Turkish government argued that the ten percent requirement was necessary to "avoid the dangers of excessive fragmentation," while the two challengers, who are members of the Democratic People's Party, recounted how their party won 46 percent of the local vote in the province of Sirnak in the 2002 elections, which did not clear the 10 percent national threshold, leaving their party with no representation in the National Assembly.
In its decision [DOC text], the Court noted that the 10 percent threshold was the highest in Europe, but ruled that:
Consequently, while noting that it would be desirable for the threshold complained of to be lowered and/or for corrective counterbalances to be introduced to ensure optimal representation of the various political tendencies without sacrificing the objective sought (the establishment of stable parliamentary majorities), the Court considers that it is important in this area to leave sufficient latitude to the national decision-makers. In that connection, it also attaches importance to the fact that the electoral system, including the threshold in question, is the subject of much debate within Turkish society and that numerous proposals of ways to correct the thresholds effects are being made both in parliament and among leading figures of civil society.Bloomberg has more.