Rerun in Istanbul raises concern

Staff Writer | May 07, 2019
In what may signal growing authoritarianism in Turkey, the Istanbul mayoral election is to be rerun after an extremely narrow win by the opposition in the country’s biggest city.

Ekrem İmamoğlu of Turkey’s opposition Republican People’s Party (known by its Turkish abbreviation, CHP) narrowly outpolled his rival, Binali Yıldırım, of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) in March – prompting a controversial rerun of the vote. 

İmamoğlu won 48.8% of the nearly nine million votes cast, just 13 000 votes more than Yıldırım’s tally. 

Turkish President, and former Istanbul mayor, Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims the Istanbul election was stolen, with his party saying that there had been widespread irregularities in the poll, making a rerun necessary.

The decision to call a fresh vote in Istanbul has been heavily criticised by the international community, with the European Union saying the decision had been taken in a ‘highly politicised’ context. German foreign minister Heiko Maas called the decision ‘incomprehensible’.

Control of Istanbul is seen as vitally important in Turkish politics. Erdogan himself has often said: “Whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey.”

However, even Erdogan’s own party is split on the matter. Some believe a rerun is necessary, while others argue that this is an assault on Turkish democracy, such as it is. There have also been rumours that this could even lead to a split in the governing AKP.

But this is only the latest in a number of assaults on Turkish democracy by Erdogan. He has moved to consolidate power amid growing censorship and unhappiness with his rule. Turkey has been declining on a number of democracy rankings. For example, the country is ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit as a hybrid regime, having elements of democratic and authoritarian government.

This latest move by Erdogan is concerning and doubly so given Turkey’s status as an influential country in a volatile region. 


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