politics : culture : economics

How badly misallocated are Turkey’s parliamentary seats?

In Electoral system, Turkey on October 14, 2010 at 1:21 am

The skewed allocation of Turkey’s parliamentary seats was highlighted recently in a comment to a post I had written about the prospects for the proposed new constitution. The specific example given was the mismatch between Bayburt (with a voter-to-seat ratio of 26,700:1 in the 2007 elections) and Istanbul’s first district (where the equivalent ratio was 111,700:1).

To try to flesh this out a bit, I’ve put together the table below, which lists each of Turkey’s provinces. What I’ve done is to calculate a proportional allocation of parliament’s 550 seats to all 81 provinces, so that we can compare it to the actual allocation used in the 2007 general election. For any electoral geeks reading, I’ve used the Sainte-Laguë method, drawing on a recent report on electoral systems by Simon Hix for the British Academy.

The key columns to look at are the ‘SL’ and ‘2007’ ones, which illustrate, respectively, the Sainte-Laguë proportional allocation and the allocation that was actually used at the last election. But before getting to the discrepancies between those columns, let me run through the contents of the other columns.

Each row in the table corresponds to an electoral province and starts with the number of registered voters in that province. The next cell (TE) indicates the  province’s theoretical entitlement in terms of seats, on a purely proportional basis. (If we divide the total electorate by 550, we see that there are 77,330 voters per seat. The TE column shows how many blocks of 77,300 voters each province contains.)

The problem with the TE figures is that they’re not whole numbers. By contrast, of course, the seats to be allocated aren’t divisible. The next column (RTE) therefore rounds up or down to the nearest integer. Which is all well and good, but as you’ll see from the ‘Total’ rows at the top and bottom of the table, this rounding process leaves us with 553 seats, meaning we’ve allocated three too many seats.

This is where Sainte-Laguë comes in. Under Sainte-Laguë we need to find a number such that when we divide it into all the provincial electorate figures, the results, when rounded up or down, sum to the number of seats to be allocated. In our case, a bit of trial and error establishes that the number needed is 77,650. If you divide that number into a province’s electorate, you get the number in the SLE column. If you then round those SLE figures up or down, you get the numbers in the SL column, which in turn sum to the total that we’re looking for, 550.

So in the SL column, we have a picture of what a proportional allocation of Turkey’s 550 seats would look like. And in the column labelled ‘2007’ we have a picture of the actual allocation that was used at the last general election. The final column in the table indicates the difference in each province between these two allocation methods. There are some glaring discrepancies.

For example, if we look at the two districts that I mentioned at the beginning, we see that under Sainte-Laguë Bayburt would have its representation halved from two seats to one. And Istanbul’s first district would have 35 seats rather than its actual 24. In fact, when Istanbul’s three districts are combined, the cumulative shortfall amounts to 26.  There’s a similar pattern in Izmir (which is eight seats short) and Ankara (nine seats). In total, the allocation that was used in the 2007 elections ‘redistributed’ 61 seats to provinces that weren’t entitled to them in terms of the size of their electorates.

This is a problem in abstract terms, insofar as some individuals’ votes clearly carry much more parliamentary weight than others. But it also has potentially concrete political implications, insofar as the ‘missing’ seats aren’t randomly distributed around the country. As we have seen, more than half of them are accounted for by Istanbul and Izmir alone—these two major cities are grossly under-represented. Or if we look at the recent constitutional referendum results and divide the country into ‘yes’ and ‘no’ camps, then the ‘no’ provinces are under-represented in parliament by 13 seats.

Things get more complicated once we start to try to take the analysis forward to look at how seats end up getting divided between parties at elections. This is because all the other elements of the electoral system start coming into play at that stage, such as the 10 per cent threshold and so on. But the way in which Turkey allocates its 550 seats to its 81 provinces makes for a poor starting point. And it surely plays a role in the imbalance that emerges later when votes across the country are translated into party seats in parliament. (In 2007, the CHP needed 64,500 votes for every seat it won. The MHP needed 70,500. The governing AKP, by contrast, needed a significantly lower 48,000.)

I’ll try to make time in the days ahead to work out what difference it would have made to the 2007 results if the Sainte-Laguë allocation had been used.

Table 1: Allocating parliamentary seats to Turkey’s 81 provinces
Region Electorate TE RTE SLE SL 2007 Diff
Total 42,532,526 550.00 553 547.75 550 550 0
Adana 1,194,453 15.45 15 15.38 15 14 -1
Adiyaman 298,114 3.85 4 3.84 4 5 1
Afyon 435,331 5.63 6 5.61 6 7 1
Agri 218,439 2.82 3 2.81 3 5 2
Aksaray 220,654 2.85 3 2.84 3 4 1
Amasya 233,489 3.02 3 3.01 3 3 0
Ankara 1 1,535,194 19.85 20 19.77 20 15 -5
Ankara 2 1,382,200 17.87 18 17.80 18 14 -4
Antalya 1,087,506 14.06 14 14.01 14 13 -1
Ardahan 68,803 0.89 1 0.89 1 2 1
Artvin 119,374 1.54 2 1.54 2 2 0
Aydin 639,957 8.28 8 8.24 8 8 0
Balikesir 797,751 10.32 10 10.27 10 8 -2
Bartin 132,272 1.71 2 1.70 2 2 0
Batman 213,033 2.75 3 2.74 3 4 1
Bayburt 53,375 0.69 1 0.69 1 2 1
Bilecik 127,524 1.65 2 1.64 2 2 0
Bingol 133,561 1.73 2 1.72 2 3 1
Bitlis 138,335 1.79 2 1.78 2 4 2
Bolu 184,830 2.39 2 2.38 2 3 1
Burdur 174,284 2.25 2 2.24 2 3 1
Bursa 1,515,125 19.59 20 19.51 20 16 -4
Canakkale 334,107 4.32 4 4.30 4 4 0
Cankiri 133,544 1.73 2 1.72 2 3 1
Corum 383,259 4.96 5 4.94 5 5 0
Denizli 576,161 7.45 7 7.42 7 7 0
Diyarbakir 674,136 8.72 9 8.68 9 10 1
Duzce 205,141 2.65 3 2.64 3 3 0
Edirne 278,329 3.60 4 3.58 4 4 0
Elazig 356,312 4.61 5 4.59 5 5 0
Erzincan 144,496 1.87 2 1.86 2 3 1
Erzurum 451,506 5.84 6 5.81 6 7 1
Eskisehir 504,413 6.52 7 6.50 6 6 0
Gaziantep 695,654 9.00 9 8.96 9 10 1
Giresun 292,963 3.79 4 3.77 4 5 1
Gumushane 85,024 1.10 1 1.09 1 2 1
Hakkari 103,150 1.33 1 1.33 1 3 2
Hatay 785,465 10.16 10 10.12 10 10 0
Igdir 89,634 1.16 1 1.15 1 2 1
Isparta 271,456 3.51 4 3.50 3 5 2
Istanbul 1 2,680,699 34.66 35 34.52 35 24 -11
Istanbul 2 2,146,740 27.76 28 27.65 28 21 -7
Istanbul 3 2,577,182 33.33 33 33.19 33 25 -8
Izmir 1 1,277,216 16.52 17 16.45 16 12 -4
Izmir 2 1,229,371 15.90 16 15.83 16 12 -4
Kahramanamaras 573,532 7.42 7 7.39 7 8 1
Karabuk 150,367 1.94 2 1.94 2 3 1
Karaman 142,237 1.84 2 1.83 2 3 1
Kars 170,527 2.21 2 2.20 2 3 1
Kastamonu 261,869 3.39 3 3.37 3 4 1
Kayseri 685,610 8.87 9 8.83 9 8 -1
Kilis 63,132 0.82 1 0.81 1 2 1
Kirikkale 192,292 2.49 2 2.48 2 4 2
Kirklareli 231,342 2.99 3 2.98 3 3 0
Kirsehir 149,177 1.93 2 1.92 2 3 1
Kocaeli 884,018 11.43 11 11.38 11 9 -2
Konya 1,184,796 15.32 15 15.26 15 16 1
Kutahya 398,026 5.15 5 5.13 5 6 1
Malatya 466,784 6.04 6 6.01 6 7 1
Manisa 859,503 11.11 11 11.07 11 10 -1
Mardin 311,655 4.03 4 4.01 4 6 2
Mersin 1,007,851 13.03 13 12.98 13 12 -1
Mugla 521,842 6.75 7 6.72 7 6 -1
Mus 181,137 2.34 2 2.33 2 4 2
Nevsehir 186,532 2.41 2 2.40 2 3 1
Nigde 209,641 2.71 3 2.70 3 3 0
Ordu 459,460 5.94 6 5.92 6 7 1
Osmaniye 260,346 3.37 3 3.35 3 4 1
Rize 226,397 2.93 3 2.92 3 3 0
Sakarya 561,119 7.26 7 7.23 7 6 -1
Samsun 779,475 10.08 10 10.04 10 9 -1
Sanliurfa 553,032 7.15 7 7.12 7 11 4
Siirt 117,317 1.52 2 1.51 2 3 1
Sinop 141,111 1.82 2 1.82 2 3 1
Sirnak 151,874 1.96 2 1.96 2 3 1
Sivas 390,494 5.05 5 5.03 5 6 1
Tekirdag 453,694 5.87 6 5.84 6 5 -1
Tokat 390,908 5.05 5 5.03 5 7 2
Trabzon 493,629 6.38 6 6.36 6 8 2
Tunceli 55,351 0.72 1 0.71 1 2 1
Usak 222,406 2.88 3 2.86 3 3 0
Van 414,681 5.36 5 5.34 5 7 2
Yalova 125,290 1.62 2 1.61 2 2 0
Yozgat 296,581 3.84 4 3.82 4 6 2
Zonguldak 427,929 5.53 6 5.51 6 5 -1
Total 42,532,526 550.00 553 547.75 550 550 0

Source: 2007 voter and seat numbers are from Psephos [http://psephos.adam-carr.net/]. Note: Electorate—registered voters in 2007; TE—theoretical entitlement; RTE—rounded theoretical entitlement; SLE—Sainte-Laguë exact entitlement; SL—Sainte-Laguë allocation; 2007—number of seats allocated for the 2007 general election; Diff—discrepancy between SL and 2007 figures.

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  1. Check out Table 4 in this paper, http://brown.edu/Departments/Political_Science/documents/ValueofaVote.pdf, for an international comparison of Turkey’s malapportionment. According to this measure Turkey is the 19th most malapportioned country in the world, behind Iceland, Spain, and Brazil for example. Comparison is not perfect as Turkey doesn’t have an upper chamber and many countries with low malapp. in low chambers may have high malapp. in the upper, but still interesting read…

  2. […] am There are problems at every stage of Turkey’s electoral process. As I highlighted in my most recent post, parliament’s 550 seats are badly misallocated among the country’s 81 provinces. Next, […]

  3. […] While Turkey’s closure cases represent an extreme form of electoral restriction, less dramatic but still undemocratic constraints on competition are built into the electoral system here. The 10 per cent threshold that parties must cross in order to be allowed into parliament is a clear obstacle to the emergence of new political forces, and I have written here previously about aspects of Turkey’s electoral mechanics that skew the translation of votes into seats. […]

  4. Here: http://www.milliyet.com.tr/secim-oncesi-hesaplar-altust-oldu/siyaset/sondakika/17.02.2011/1353565/default.htm

    I believe this is the ‘new’ court but am unsure about who voted which way.

  5. Am I right in understanding that this just repeals an amendment that was introduced in 2009? And that this therefore takes us back to the provisions that applied before that date, including at the last election?

    If so, presumably any ‘misallocation’ of seats that existed in 2007 will still be permitted following this decision. Which would still leave us a long way from the kind of principle of equal representation that the CHP seems to be talking about.

    Incidentally, I’m not entirely clear what the effect of the 2009 amendment would have been, even if it had stayed in place. On the face of it, it seems to want to guarantee that every province would have at least two members of parliament. But every province already had at least two representatives in 2007, under the old rules. So why the need for a change? (Were relative population changes in places like Bayburt threatening their second seat? Was it a pre-emptive amendment to ensure that even less populous territories would get ‘equal’ two-seat representation if they were bumped up to provincial status?)

  6. I have no idea (yet?) about any of those questions, but they are good questions.

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