Istanbul protests after Erdogan orders election rerun
Turkey’s election commission has ordered a rerun of Istanbul’s mayoral election after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) complained about its March 31 defeat.
The opposition deputy chair Onursal Adiguzel said the move pushed the country into a “plain dictatorship” and showed it was “illegal to win against the AK Party”.
Adiguzel tweeted: “This system that overrules the will of the people and disregards the law is neither democratic nor legitimate.”
Street protests broke out across the affluent, secular neighbourhoods of Istanbul where support for the opposition is strongest.
Protesters banged pots and pans out of their windows and chanted “Rights, law, justice”.
The defeat ended Erdogan’s 25 years of control in Turkey’s biggest city.
The electoral commission said there was “irregularities and corruption” in the mayoral election won by Ekrem Imamoglu of the opposition Republican People’s Party by 13,000 votes.
An AKP representative on the electoral board, Recep Ozel, said the rerun was being ordered because some electoral staff were not civil servants and some result papers had not been signed.
The European Parliament said the decision to rerun the election would end the credibility of democratic elections in Turkey.
Imamoglu, 48, called the decision “treacherous”. A statement read to protesters waving Turkish flags in the Beylikduzu district urged supporters to “stand up against what you know to be immoral”.
The former district mayor had said he would heal divisions across party lines but the loss of Istanbul was clearly a deep shock to Erdogan’s party. The strongman leader, himself a former Istanbul mayor, has previously said winning Istanbul was like taking control of the entire country.
With 16 million residents, Istanbul is Turkey’s economic engine and controls a major slice of public spending.
Erdogan, 65, came to national prominence when he became Istanbul mayor in 1994. He built a network of patronage in the city through contracts for the business community and welfare for the poor. The defeat in the city was obviously a deep personal blow, largely fuelled by the AKP’s economic mismanagement.
He has won every election since, becoming prime minister in 2003 and president in 2014 and then altered the constitution in 2017 to gather almost all state power in his hands.
The AKP filed numerous complaints about the Istanbul vote and forced several district recounts, all of which failed to change the result.
The ruling party then said some of the polling staff were followers of self-exiled Fethullah Gulen, the US-based cleric, whom Erdogan accuses of organising the botched July 2016 coup attempt.
Prosecutors last week opened investigations into around 100 electoral staff in a move that was widely seen as a prelude to yesterday’s rerun announcement.
Erdogan support in Istanbul has been high in the past. Picture credit: Wikimedia