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Germany slams plan for Istanbul vote rerun

May 7, 2019

Germany's foreign minister says a decision to annul Istanbul's mayoral election and hold a rerun is "not transparent and incomprehensible." But Recep Tayyip Erdogan is hailing the step as a win for democracy.

People waving Turkish flags
Image: Reuters/M. Sezer

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Tuesday condemned a controversial order to scrap the results of Istanbul's mayoral election.

Turkey's top election body on Monday ordered a rerun of the vote after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan alleged ballot "irregularities" and "organized corruption." Although AKP won most races in the March local polls, it lost the major cities of Ankara and Istanbul to the opposition. 

Read moreOpinion: Istanbul election re-do is a death knell for democracy

Maas called the election body's decision "not transparent and incomprehensible to us."

"Who holds the office of Istanbul's mayor can only be decided by the will of the Turkish voters," the minister said in a statement. 

"Maintaining democratic principles with transparent electoral conditions is our top priority."

Voters condemn rerun of mayoral election in Istanbul

Erdogan welcomes fresh vote

The electoral board's decision means a new Istanbul vote will be held on June 23. Erdogan described the planned rerun as an "important step" for the country.

"We believe there was organized corruption and full illegality in the Istanbul mayoral elections," Erdogan told lawmakers from his AK Party in parliament.

Former German Greens leader Cem Özdemir, who has Turkish roots, told Agence France-Presse the annulment had "nothing to with democracy," but rather proves that Erdogan is a "bitter old man, who has long passed the zenith of his power."

"In the world of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, everyone who thinks differently to him is a terrorist, and every election he loses is a sham election," he said. 

Ekrem Imamoglu of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) was declared the winner of the tightly fought race for Istanbul in mid-April. It was the first time in 25 years that AKP and its Islamist predecessors had lost control of the country's largest city.

Read more:  Turkey: After election gains, Kurds fear Erdogan's reach

Concern for democracy: Turkey's opposition called the election board's decision undemocratic and a sign the country had become a "dictatorship." Critics have long accused Erdogan of using his power to repress political opponents and silence critical voices in the media. The local elections in March were seen as his first test at the polls since last year's currency crisis, which led to skyrocketing inflation and recession. And although his AKP won overall, the loss of the capital, Ankara, and economic powerhouse Istanbul, served a huge blow.

Significance of Istanbul: The defeat in Turkey's largest city, home to 16 million people, came as a major shock to Erdogan and his AK party. Istanbul had been held by the AKP and its Islamic predecessors for more than two decades. It was also a personal loss for Erdogan, who grew up in the city and began his rise to political prominence as mayor there in the early 1990s.

What happens next? Erdogan has confirmed that former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim will run again as the AKP's mayoral candidate in Istanbul. The CHP's Imamoglu told his supporters late Monday he too would run again. Meanwhile, smaller opposition parties in the race have suggested they may back Imamoglu to bolster his chances against the AKP. 

nm/rt (Reuters, AFP)

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