ISTANBUL: Street protests erupted, the lira plunged in value and Turkey’s stock market plummeted on Tuesday after election authorities ordered a rerun of the vote for mayor of Istanbul.
The Supreme Election Council accepted a claim by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party of “irregularities” in the March vote, when former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim lost to Ekrem Imamoglu of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
When the June 23 repeat vote was announced the Turkish lira slid 1.5 percent past the 6.15 per dollar threshold, Istanbul’s stock market and government bonds fell, and protesters took to the streets.
“The will of the people has been trampled on,” said centrist IYI Party leader Meral Aksener.
Senior European Parliament member Guy Verhofstadt said the “outrageous decision highlights how Erdogan’s Turkey is drifting toward a dictatorship.”
The rerun election was a “seismic event in Turkish history,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Program at the Washington Institute.
“Turkey has been holding free and fair elections since the 1950s,” he said. “Never before has a party refused to accept the outcome of the election. Erdogan is saying, ‘Let’s vote until the governing party wins’.”
The AKP’s Yildirim might still struggle to win the rerun after other parties threatened to unite against him. The pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) said it would repeat its policy from March of not contesting the election, which helped the CHP’s Imamoglu.
The Islamist Saadet (Felicity) Party and the Democratic Left Party said they may also stand aside in favor of Imamoglu.
The election council’s decision shows that Erdogan now dominates almost all institutions in Turkey, Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of Teneo Intelligence in London, told Arab News.
“It will result in a lose-lose situation regardless of the outcome,” he said. “It not only intensifies Turkey’s vulnerability to market fluctuations ahead of the new vote, but it also shows that the AKP is willing to sacrifice the economy before ceding any power.”