Rerun of mayoral election in Istanbul

President Erdoğan has described the decision of the Supreme Electoral Council to annul the mayoral elections in Istanbul as a move to 'strengthen the democracy'. Opposition supporters took to the streets again on Tuesday and their parties are seeking a common strategy for the rerun. What are their chances?

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Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Imamoğlu could knock Erdoğan off his pedestal

Deutschlandfunk is impressed at how the opposition's mayoral candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu has blossomed:

“He comes across as friendly, listens to his citizens. Ever since he was elected he seems to be outside all the time - with the people. ... Many see him not just as the new mayor of Istanbul but as the man who could knock Erdoğan off his pedestal. The local politician can try all he wants not to let even a hint of ambition show, but Erdoğan can no longer accept Imamoğlu as Istanbul's mayor. He sees him perhaps as a young Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the beginning of his career. After all, he himself started out as mayor of Istanbul.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Further legitimisation for a sham democracy

The opposition CHP and its candidate Ekrem Imamoğlu are taking a big risk with their decision not to boycott the rerun, NRC Handelsblad fears:

“The decision of the electoral council has damaged the Turks' already fragile trust in the democratic process - regardless of which party they support. ... Yet Imamoğlu is insisting on taking the democratic path again. ... But this approach is risky. Many members of the opposition fear that Erdoğan's AKP will resort to illegitimate means if necessary. Because Erdoğan can't afford to lose Istanbul a second time. It's a dilemma the CHP has grappled with for some time now. The party knows that this game is unfair, and that by participating in it it is legitimising a defective democracy.”

Novoye Vremya (UA) /

The president has two options

The Turkish president now has two possibilities for dealing with the situation, journalist Ivan Jakovyna writes in Novoye Vremya:

“Erdoğan has often said that the country is controlled by whoever controls Istanbul. This is why he is willing to do anything to secure his power in this city. This is why he insisted on the annulment of the election results in the hope that his candidate could still win. But it's not looking good - the opposition's popularity is growing, and its leaders are joining forces. So Erdoğan has two options: to cheat in the new vote or to acknowledge that his era is coming to an end. I think he will choose the first option. And then protests and other unpleasant consequences will follow.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Lust for power triumphs over reason

With his anti-democratic approach the president is doing untold damage to his country, the Financial Times complains:

“Turkey will be increasingly viewed as a problem to be managed rather than a trusted partner if it cannot support democracy. Mr Erdogan in recent weeks faced a choice. He could have acknowledged the AKP lost Istanbul due to economic and political failings, and pledged to reform. Instead, he appears consumed by a lust for power, weakening Turkey domestically and internationally. Defeat in Istanbul was painful to the president and his party. Undermining electoral politics will be infinitely more painful for Turkey and its citizens.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Turkey can no longer be considered a democracy

The annulment of the election sends a fatal signal whose implications reach far beyond Istanbul, comments Der Tagesspiegel:

“If the peaceful transfer of power in the country's largest city no longer functions, there can be no talk of free elections anymore. The political competition is in a stranglehold. This is disastrous not just for Turkey's domestic politics. The economic crisis will no doubt worsen now because the growing despotism will scare off investors. In foreign policy too, a new era is dawning. Turkey can no longer be considered a democracy. The West must rethink its relationship with Ankara.”

BBC (GB) /

Erdoğan's strategy could backfire

The insistence by the president and the AKP on a re-run of the elections could backfire, BBC News observes:

“It's a strategy fraught with risk. The Turkish lira - which has lost more than 30 percent over the past year - has slumped again. An economy in recession can hardly cope with more uncertainty. After all, it was economic woes that lost Istanbul for Mr Erdogan in the first place. What's more, Ekrem Imamoglu, who was formally appointed mayor last month, is gaining popularity, fast. He's reached out beyond his base and has settled into the role with ease. The rerun could widen his win - barring major irregularities against him, which many of his supporters fear.”

Hürriyet (TR) /

We must not touch the presidential system

The pro-government columnist Abdülkadir Selvi voices his concern in Hürriyet that the presidential system that was only introduced last year might now be thrown into question:

“A tough test of our democracy lies ahead. We must emerge from this phase with a strong democracy, by ensuring that the discussion about the election does not turn into a discussion about our new regime. But one thing is certain: the decision of the Supreme Electoral Council has landed us in a new political climate zone.”