Intel: How Turkey just shattered many voters' already fractured trust in their democracy

al-monitor A Turkish flag flies on a passenger ferry in Istanbul, Turkey, April 11, 2019.  Photo by REUTERS/Murad Sezer.

May 6, 2019

Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council today annulled the results of local elections in Istanbul, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) suffered a historic defeat just over a month ago.

Why it matters: The council’s decision marks a watershed moment for the Turkish republic by shaking millions of voters’ trust in the electoral process. Domestic and international critics have long accused Erdogan of undermining the country's democratic institutions, saying he and the AKP have been steadily descending into authoritarianism.

Erdogan has long rejected such accusations by equating democracy with elections, which the AKP has dominated since its founding in 2001. With its rejection of the Istanbul results on unproven fraud allegations, the electoral council has dashed the beleaguered opposition's remaining hope in the democratic process while fueling fears that Erdogan and the AKP have abandoned any semblance of commitment to the peaceful transition of power through elections.

“Those who come through elections will not go through elections,” said Ahmet Sik, a member of the parliament for the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, echoing the sentiment of millions of people who voted for opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu of the Republican People's Party’s (CHP) as mayor of Istanbul.

What’s next: The AKP representative to the electoral council said the election do-over will be held June 23. Now all eyes are on the CHP, which convened an emergency meeting immediately after today's cancellation announcement. Hundreds of social media users in Turkey are calling for an election boycott — another clear sign of how people have lost faith in Turkey’s electoral process.

The Turkish lira further weakened after the announcement, tumbling to its lowest level in months. The downturn will likely continue in the coming days as new elections portend further government spending and instability for the Turkish economy.

Know more: Read Amberin Zaman’s April 16 piece on the potential ramifications of the electoral redo and check here to learn what the loss of Istanbul would represent for Erdogan and the AKP.

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