Prolonging Istanbul vote process not a good message to the world
Although two weeks have passed since local elections in Turkey, it’s hard to predict when the final results will be announced over who will run Istanbul, Turkey’s largest metropole with 16 million residents.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has already made clear its intention to apply to the Supreme Election Council (YSK) for the annulment of the March 31 elections due to serious and widespread irregularities that allegedly had a decisive impact on the results in favor of Ekrem İmamoğlu, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had alleged organized fraud in Istanbul, while his Istanbul nominee, former Parliament Speaker Binali Yıldırım, described the polls as “flawed” and fraudulent due to “apparent irregularities.”
The YSK’s inquiry on the AKP’s claims that fake voters were registered in Istanbul’s Büyükçekmece district and the recount of votes in Maltepe, another Istanbul district, was still ongoing late afternoon on April 16.
The AKP has tabled an extraordinary appeal for the renewal of elections in Istanbul even before the YSK finalized its work on the said districts and collected the minutes that would tell who won the polls.
If the YSK comes to a conclusion that the Istanbul polls were rigged, then an announcement for the renewal of the polls on June 2 is expected.
The CHP front, however, has intensified its pressure on the YSK for the announcement of the results as the watchdog’s inquiry on the AKP’s appeals has already proven the validity of the polls. İmamoğlu continues his active visibility through frequent press conferences and public meetings, while the party organization has not abandoned centers where the voting process is underway.
Some CHP officials confidently express that İmamoğlu can even garner more votes, widening the gap against Yıldırım, in a potential renewal of elections. But they stress that annulling the March 31 polls can have a detrimental effect on the Turkish democracy and elections.
The AKP’s natural ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), is in favor of the renewal, while other opposition groups slam the government for not accepting the poll results. The decision by the Felicity (Saadet) Party, whose candidate had around 100,000 votes in Istanbul, to run or withdraw its nominee will be important.
The YSK’s decision will also have reflections abroad. Already suffering from its image as a downgraded democracy, the annulment of the Istanbul polls would further deteriorate it and launch questions over its legitimacy. In this regard, last week’s call by the Council of Europe regarding the local elections should be well-noted instead of showing a reaction to it, because it reflects not only the stance of the Strasbourg-based body, but also of other international organizations, particularly the European Union.
The implementation of the will of the voters has an absolute priority, the council has stressed, calling on Turkish officials “to conclude the procedures to establish the final results of the local elections in Istanbul as quickly as possible, and, more generally, to implement the decisions taken by the voters.” They were referring to mayors in the country’s southeast having been elected but who have not been officialy appointed by the YSK yet.
The YSK’s decision to renew Istanbul polls would also have effects on the Turkish economy. Although Finance Minister Berat Albayrak denied that such a renewal would not discourage foreign investors, many economists and analysts express their concerns on the same matter. Already in stress over both structural and macro-economic problems and impending turbulence in ties with the United States over a score of issues, including the Russian anti-ballistic S-400 missile systems, the Turkish economy might face a new low.
For all these reasons cited above, it’s becoming much more important for the government to accept the will of the people and to immediately start addressing Turkey’s very crucial economic and foreign policy issues.