Rerun of Istanbul Vote a Blow to Turkey’s Democracy

Abdullah Ayasun
5 min readMay 6, 2019

The most feared thing in Turkey finally has happened: the vote in Istanbul has been annulled by the election authority. After a month of political wrangling and pressure, Turkey’s Supreme Election Council (YSK) finally ruled on Monday for a rerun of the election on June 23, undoing the opposition’s upset victory in Turkey’s largest city in March 31 elections.

More than a month after the vote, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have not conceded the defeat in Istanbul yet. Even weeks after Ekrem Imamoglu, the new mayor of Istanbul, began to preside over a transition period and live-streamed his council meetings on social media every day, the president never relented in his push for the annulment of the vote.

He long telegraphed that the vote would be canceled. His messages were regarded as an intensifying pressure on the election authority, which relentlessly plumbed to unearth the slightest hint of misconduct and wrongdoing during the voting process.

On Monday, 7 members of the YSK decided in favor of the rerun against the opposition of 4 members. The official reason presented after the ruling was that “some of the election officials [who worked at ballot boxes during the vote] were not public workers.” The rationale reflects not-so-subtle political machinations of the ruling party, which for weeks lamented that dismissed public workers were deployed at some polling stations.

A day before the YSK meeting, the state-run Anadolu reported that some of the officials deposited money at Bank Asya — a Gulen-affiliated bank — in the past. Any form of tie to the bank, even in the past, is seen enough for authorities to label someone as a terrorist and land him in jail. The argument sparked bitter controversy on social media and was dismissed by the opposition as nonsense.

The ruling means a devastating blow to people’s confidence in elections, which defined, if not always perfectly, a major contour of Turkey’s democratic politics since the multi-party era in the late 1940s.

President Erdogan who always grounded his political legitimacy on winning elections in the face of international criticism against his authoritarian rule in recent years. He cited elections, however…

Abdullah Ayasun

New York-based journalist and writer. Columbia School of Journalism. 2023 White House Correspondents' Association Scholar. Twitter: @abyasun