Turkish Authorities Order New Mayoral Election In Istanbul

May 7, 2019
Originally published on May 7, 2019 8:01 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right - big political news in Turkey. Election authorities there have scrapped the results of the Istanbul mayor's race, which saw the opposition deliver a stinging defeat to the candidate from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports that this decision means that race will have to be rerun.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Turkey's Supreme Election Council, acting on a complaint by Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, cancelled the mandate of Ekrem Imamoglu, the new opposition mayor to lead Turkey's largest city. The move drew immediate complaints from opposition figures, who accused the election council of abandoning its independence and caving in to political pressure. Imamoglu said the council, known by its Turkish acronym YSK, gave in to what he called threats and pressure from the ruling party.

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EKREM IMAMOGLU: (Through interpreter) They did give in and they obeyed. I am condemning the YSK - condemning, condemning. Do not lose hope or give up. We are still standing. My friends, you have campaigned for democracy and said the sovereignty unconditionally belongs to the nation.

KENYON: That last comment is a famous quote from Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the first head of the Turkish Republic. Opposition supporters accused Erdogan of trying to overturn the will of the voters. One opposition party official said he was turning Turkey into a dictatorship. Erdogan said there were irregularities and the vote must be redone. Imamoglu, who's been acting for weeks as Istanbul's mayor, said he would fight for his victory.

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IMAMOGLU: (Through interpreter) This election that we won on the 31 of March, they tried to take it away from us. They're trying to steal our effort and work.

KENYON: The opposition People's Republican Party met to discuss how to respond. Party members said a boycott of the rerun was one option to be considered, but no immediate decision was announced. The action by the election council wipes out the most painful defeat for the ruling AK Party in the March 31 local elections. Erdogan's party has controlled Turkey's financial capital and largest city for a quarter-century, dating back to Erdogan's tenure as mayor here. The new election date is June 23.

The Turkish lira fell in currency markets in the wake of the move to avoid the election results. One opposition newspaper called the decision a coup. The European Parliament's rapporteur for Turkey wrote on Twitter that, quote, "this ends the credibility of democratic transition of power through elections in Turkey."

Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRISTAN DE LIEGE'S "WOODEN LINES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.