Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has welcomed a controversial order to rerun the recent Istanbul local elections after complaints of corruption, claiming a new poll was the “best step” for the country.
The country’s high election board said on Monday some ballot box committees were formed illegally by district election board members who would face criminal complaints.
Main opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu was initially declared as Istanbul’s new mayor on April 17 after winning the race by a small margin, pending an “extraordinary objection” for a rerun by Erdogan’s party.
The ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party alleged voting irregularities made the results invalid, and said that they presented the related evidence to the board. The opposition said the AK Party’s claims were baseless and the ruling party was pressuring the election authority.
“We see this decision as the best step that will strengthen our will to solve problems within the framework of democracy and law,” Erdogan said, in a speech to legislators from his AK Party in parliament on Tuesday.
Erdogan slammed those criticising the decision to repeat the election on June 23, saying they should know their place. He added that Binali Yildirim, a former prime minister, will once again be the AK Party’s candidate in the polls.
One of the critics was German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who said the decision to scrap the vote was neither transparent nor comprehensible.
In a statement, Maas said Turkish voters alone must decide on the mayor’s office, adding that basic democratic principles and transparent election rules were paramount.
“The decision of the high election board to annul the local election in Istanbul and order a rerun is in our view not transparent and not comprehensible,” Maas said.
Opposition slams decision
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has also condemned the decision as “neither democratic nor legitimate” but said it will not boycott the rerun.
The CHP said that its candidate Imamoglu will also run in the June 23 polls.
Following the election board’s announcement, opposition supporters took to the streets in some parts of Istanbul to protest the rerun decision.
With an estimated 2.9 million people of either Turkish citizenship or recent ancestry, Germany is home to the largest Turkish diaspora community worldwide.
But the close links between the two countries are also a source of tension, with German politicians regularly blasting what they see as illiberal moves by Erdogan.
The decision to rerun the elections adds nearly two months of uncertainty over its plan to rebalance and stabilise the economy, Edward Parker, managing director at Fitch Ratings who heads the group that covers Turkey, said on Tuesday.
“The elections being rerun just pushes out that point in time (for a resolution), and we have another nearly two months of extra uncertainty,” he told Reuters news agency.
Fitch last week reaffirmed Turkey’s sovereign rating at ‘BB’ with a negative outlook, but Parker said it could be downgraded if “existing weaknesses are aggravated, especially given the volatility in the Turkish economy and currency”.
Al Jazeera and news agencies