ECHR Upholds Turkey's 10% Threshold in Elections

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on July 8 in the case of Yumak & Sadak v. Turkey. The case was brought by the plaintiffs after they lost in Turkey’s recent parliamentary elections. Although eighteen parties participated in the elections, only two were able to garner enough votes nationally to meet the 10% threshold necessary to be seated in the Parliament. As a result, Turkey’s new Assembly is the least representative since the multi-party system was introduced. The plaintiffs alleged that the high threshold interfered with the right to free elections, which is protected by Article 3 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

In this case, the Grand Chamber found that the 10% electoral threshold was not a violation of the Convention. However, it did admit that such a threshold would generally seem “excessive”. In its opinion, the Grand Chamber twice cited an article by Ricardo Zimbron entitled “The Unappreciated Margin: Turkish Electoral Politics Before the European Court of Human Rights,” which had been previously published in Harvard International Law Journal.

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