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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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Press Release: ECtHR Grand Chamber in Hearing Today on Turkey’s Election Threshold


The case of Yumak and Sadak v. Turkey is being heard today by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.

In the parliamentary elections of 3 November 2002 the applicants stood as candidates for the political party DEHAP (Democratic People's Party) in the province of Sirnak. As a result of the ballot, DEHAP obtained approximately 45.95per cent in the province, however their party did not secure 10 per cent of the national vote. The applicants were not elected, in accordance with Turkish electoral law, which states a party must obtain at least 10 per cent of the national vote in parliamentary elections in order to win seats in the National Assembly. Consequently, of the three parliamentary seats allotted to Sirnak province, two were filled by the AKP (Justice and Development Party), which obtained just 14.05 per cent of the provincial vote and the third by an independent candidate who obtained 9.69 per cent of the vote.

Relying on Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights (right to free elections), the applicants submitted that setting a threshold of 10 per cent of the vote in parliamentary elections interfered with the free expression of the opinion of the people in their choice of the legislature.

In a judgment of 30 January 2007 the European Court of Human Rights held by 5 votes to 2 that there had been no violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights (right to free elections). However, it also noted that it would be desirable for the threshold to be lowered in order to ensure optimal representation, while preserving the objective of achieving stable parliamentary majorities. The case was referred to the Grand Chamber at the applicants' request.

The nearest comparable European electoral thresholds are Poland's Sejm and Germany's Bundestag at 5 per cent, both also considered to be relatively high. Many countries use proportional representation systems without any threshold, such as Portugal, Finland, the Netherlands, and Ireland. The Turkish threshold is therefore by far the highest in Council of Europe and serves to deny small parties and their supporters the right of representation. In this summer’s elections Kurdish candidates stood as independents in order to circumvent the threshold, thus achieving seats in parliament for the first time in over a decade.

Commenting on today’s hearing KHRP Executive Director Kerim Yildiz stated: “it is significant that in its January judgment, the European Court of Human Rights acknowledged that Turkey fails to achieve optimal representation due to the 10 per cent threshold. KHRP hopes the Grand Chamber will go further, and find that such a high threshold is out of step with European electoral norms, and a violation of the right to free elections as provided for by Article 3 of Protocol 1 to the ECHR”.