Berlin brands Istanbul vote re-run ‘incomprehensible’

BERLIN: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Tuesday criticised plans to re-run Istanbul’s mayoral election as “not transparent and incomprehensible to us”.
“Who holds the office of Istanbul’s mayor can only be decided by the will of the Turkish voters,” Maas said in a statement.
“Maintaining democratic principles with transparent electoral conditions is our top priority.”
With an estimated 2.9 million people of either Turkish citizenship or recent ancestry, Germany is home to the largest Turkish diaspora community worldwide.
Turkey’s top election body on Monday ordered a rerun of March’s Istanbul election after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) complained of “irregularities” and “organised crime”.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has condemned the decision by Turkey’s top election body to renew the election as “neither democratic nor legitimate”.
Erdogan welcomed the controversial order to hold a fresh Istanbul election after complaints of corruption as the “important step in strengthening our democracy.” Addressing his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara, he insisted that “we sincerely believe organised corruption, utter lawlessness and irregularity occurred in the Istanbul elections.”
However, defiant opposition parties rallied around Istanbul’s outgoing mayor Ekrem Imamoglu.
CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu announced on Tuesday that Imamoglu would again be the mayoral candidate, saying he would represent not only the party, but all of Istanbul’s 16 million people.
Erdogan said Yildirim would run again, and that Istanbul’s current governor, Ali Yerlikaya, will be interim mayor until the re-run, state news agency Anadolu reported.
Annulling the result in Turkey’s economic powerhouse has rattled investors and triggered concerns of a fresh economic crisis amid the political uncertainty.
The Turkish lira slid to its lowest point against the dollar since October. The YSK ruling kept up the pressure on the lira, which on Tuesday crossed the 6-dollar mark.
The Turkish Industry and Business Association (TUSIAD), an important business group, called the development worrying at a time when it was essential to “focus on extensive economic and democratic reforms.”
“We have seen that some business groups made very strange statements after the decision was announced,” Erdogan lashed out.
“You’re making a mistake. Everyone must know their place,” he said, adding that “when you make interfering statements about the electoral decision, then this shows well where you stand.” While the Islamic-conservative AKP claimed nationwide victory in March, it lost crucial mayoral races in Ankara and Istanbul.
Even though he wasn’t on the ballot, it was the biggest setback for Erdogan in his 16 years in power. For the first time in 25 years, the national capital and Istanbul were not to be ruled by conservatives.
Erdogan rose to power in Istanbul, which picked him as mayor in 1994. He once even said that “if we lose Istanbul, we lose Turkey.” The city is home to one-fifth of Turkey’s voters.
“I’m ashamed,” said Meral Aksener, leader of the centre-right Iyi(Good) party, who criticised the ruling and said the people had been robbed of their rights.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) slammed the election council for bowing to pressure from Turkey’s leadership to make a decision that lacked “democratic legitimacy.” The HDP and Iyi didn’t field candidates in Istanbul, throwing their weight behind Imamoglu.
The Communist Party (TKP) said it would not contest the re-run, to favour Imamoglu.
Erdogan is head of state, of government and of the AKP. On his watch, the economy fell into a recession at the end of last year and inflation is at a 15-year high.
Voters hit hard by the economic downturn punished the AKP in economic hubs and urban centres.
“Do whatever you want, we will emerge from this election as winners,” the CHP’s Kilicdaroglu said.
 — AFP/dpa