Istanbul annulment imperils Erdoğan's rule - analyst

Facing government pressure, the election board's decision to annul the March 31 Istanbul vote further isolates President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and is likely to undermine his rule, said an analysis for Jerusalem Post.

As Erdoğan has grabbed power over the years, he has simply removed any competitors from the scene, jailing the charismatic Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, forcing out Justice and Development Party (AKP) rivals, and replacing dozens of elected mayors with state appointees, Pinar Tremblay, visiting scholar at California State Polytechnic University, wrote on late Tuesday for Jerusalem Post.

Yet few of these moves were as problematic as the annulment of the Istanbul mayoral vote, which cannot be explained by reason, according to Tremblay.  

“On March 31, Istanbul residents put four pieces of paper in one envelope to choose four different layers of local government,” she wrote.

The AKP had no problem with the results in three of these contests, which were certified by the same committee that certified the fourth, for Istanbul mayor. “So the fraud was carried out by some magical mechanism that affected only one of the choices of each voter,” said Tremblay.

The real issue was that opposition candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu had won, according to Tremblay, and as a result of his steady demeanor he has seen his popularity grow in recent weeks. Tremblay believes that the lengthy delay between the March 31 vote and its annulment, five weeks later, was not caused by any questions about fraud.

“The real cause of the delay was to gain time to prepare the necessary and sufficient conditions for an absolute victory in a June 23 rerun,” she said, adding that Turkey’s president cannot afford to lose Istanbul again. “Erdoğan has been using this time to update his election strategy, and to design a sustainable road map to win the vote next time around.”

Yet the electoral board’s Istanbul rerun decision, coerced by the government, will cost Erdoğan, according to Tremblay.

“As Turkey slides rapidly into recession, the lavish lifestyles of AKP elites, the reckless spending of government officials and the grandiose yet ineffective public projects have become not only more visible but also more despicable,” she wrote. “The decision to void İmamoğlu ’s victory is quite likely to complete a self-fulfilling prophecy by Erdoğan. He cannot govern from Ankara without Istanbul. This was his own preaching for decades; it is gradually becoming true.”