Date
20 November 2019
Demonstrators shout anti-government slogans during a protest against the High Election Board's decision to re-run the mayoral election in Istanbul on Monday. Photo: Reuters
Demonstrators shout anti-government slogans during a protest against the High Election Board's decision to re-run the mayoral election in Istanbul on Monday. Photo: Reuters

Turkey to re-run Istanbul election lost by Erdogan’s AKP

Turkish authorities scrapped the result of a vote for Istanbul mayor lost by President Tayyip Erdogan’s candidate, responding to calls by his AK Party for a re-run, Reuters reports.

The High Election Board (YSK) on Monday ruled that a fresh Istanbul mayoral contest will be held on June 23. The AK Party representative on the board, Recep Ozel, said the decision was based on unsigned results documents from the March 31 election and on some ballot box officials not being civil servants.

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which narrowly won the mayor’s office in the country’s largest city, called the ruling “plain dictatorship”.

Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, said the decision “ends the credibility of democratic transition of power through elections” in the country.

Reuters witnesses said people were banging on pots and pans in protest against the ruling in several Istanbul districts.

The AKP had appealed for an election re-run after initial results and a series of recounts showed it had lost control of Istanbul for the first time in 25 years.

It was a shock loss for Erdogan, who in the 1990s served as the city’s mayor and had campaigned hard ahead of the nationwide local vote, his first electoral test since last year’s sharp currency crisis tipped the Turkish economy into recession.

The Turkish lira weakened and was at 6.1075 against the dollar at 1730 GMT on Monday, on track for its worst day in more than a month.

The currency has tumbled more than 10 percent since a week before the initial election. Suspense over the ruling had left investors worried that weeks of additional campaigning would divert funds and attention from addressing economic reforms.

“This is damaging for Turkey’s perception as a democracy and will leave Turkey’s economy vulnerable, given risks to macro financial stability in the period to July,” said Timothy Ash of Blue Bay Asset Management.

Inflation near 20 percent and unemployment near 15 percent drove many voters to abandon the AKP in the initial vote.

Before the second vote, tensions with the United States could escalate over Turkey’s planned purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system, which could trigger US sanctions. 

It was unclear how the CHP and its supporters would respond to a re-run given suspicions over the YSK’s political independence from the AKP, which in recent years has centralized power in the presidency away from other institutions.

One CHP member of parliament, Mehmet Bekaroglu, said on Arti TV that the AKP pressured and threatened YSK judges with prison if they voted against a re-run. Piri of the European Parliament also said pressure was applied to re-do the elections.

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