What Istanbul’s New Mayoral Elections Mean for Turkey’s Future

No Matter Who Wins, a Crisis Looms

Supporters of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu wave flags during an election rally in Istanbul,  June 2019 Murad Sezer / REUTERS

On June 23, Istanbul will hold new mayoral elections. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost the original election on March 31, appealed to overturn the results on a technicality, and won. The ruling was only the latest and most striking turn in Turkey’s decadelong period of autocratization, which has seen the imprisonment of a popular opposition leader, closure of over 1,400 civil society organizations and some 175 media outlets, dismissal of 130,000 civil servants, and constitutional transformation from a parliamentary to a superpresidential system lacking checks and balances.

The mayoral vote was plainly canceled because its results were unacceptable to the ruling party, but that doesn’t mean that the AKP can dispense with the trappings of democratic practice altogether. There has been a new campaign, and voters will return to the polls.

The dynamics of this unfair, unfree election illuminate the nature of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s unstable authoritarianism

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