Sunday

19th May 2019

Turkey election fiasco hits at 'heart' of EU relations

  • Istanbul, home to 15m people, accounts for almost a third of Turkey's GDP. Now the election victory of the opposition CHP party in the city has been overturned (Photo: Remon Rijper)

The way Turkey handles the Istanbul election controversy could shape future EU relations, top officials have warned.

But for some leading MEPs, Turkish democracy just breathed its last gasp.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"Ensuring a free, fair and transparent election process ... is at the heart of the European Union's relations with Turkey," the EU foreign relations chief, Federica Mogherini, and enlargement commissioner, Johannes Hahn, said on Monday (6 March).

Speaking shortly after Turkish authorities ordered a rerun of the recent mayoral election in Istanbul that the ruling party had lost, the EU pair urged Ankara to open up their reasoning to "public scrutiny" and to invite international observers to the new vote on 23 June.

The Council of Europe in Strasbourg, which had monitored the initial vote 31 March, said the Istanbul decision "has the potential to severely damage the trust of the Turkish voters in the electoral authorities".

But two leading MEPs - Kati Piri, a Dutch socialist who is the European Parliament's Turkey rapporteur, and Guy Verhofstadt, a Belgian who chairs the liberal Alde group - went further.

"This ends the credibility of democratic transition of power through elections in Turkey," Piri said.

"This outrageous decision highlights how Erdogan's Turkey is drifting towards a dictatorship. Under such leadership, accession talks are impossible," Verhofstadt said, referring to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkey's EU accession talks, which have been on hold since 2016 anyway.

The controversy arose after Turkey's Supreme Election Council (YSK) earlier on Monday annulled the victory of Ekrem Imamoglu, from the opposition CHP party.

His win, in Turkey's richest and most populous city, was a loss of face for Erdogan and his AKP party.

The YSK said the result was invalid because of faulty paperwork and because some electoral officials were not civil servants, as required.

It also spoke of filing criminal charges and accused some officials of being members of "FETO" - followers of an exiled Muslim guru, Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan accused of plotting a coup back in 2016 and in whose name he has jailed tens of thousands of his political opponents.

"The justice system will hold accountable all individuals and organisations that violated electoral laws during this process," Erdogan's spokesman, Fahrettin Altun, said.

The decision saw hundreds of protesters bang pots and pans in the streets of Istanbul on Monday evening.

"Shame on the YSK. They were placed under political pressure from day one," the CHP's Imamoglu told one crowd of supporters in the city in a speech broadcast on social media.

"The people chose me. We are the Turkish youth who are thirsting for justice and believe in democracy," he added.

"This is a downright dictatorship," Onursal Adiguzel, a CHP deputy from Istanbul said on Twitter.

"It's free to enter an election against the AKP but forbidden to win it," he said.

The March vote saw the AKP bloc win just 51 percent of the vote nationwide despite the rulers' near-total control of national media and its two-year long purge of Erdogan's critics.

The CHP also won in Ankara and Izmir, with AKP contesting the Ankara win and with some non-AKP mayors also forbidden to take up office despite having won it in minor towns in south-east Turkey.

Binal Yildrim, the AKP candidate who lost in Istanbul, said the new vote would lead to "beneficial and beautiful results".

Altun, the Erdogan spokesman, also said the new vote would be "transparent, lawful and orderly".

But markets saw it differently, with the value of the lira sliding another two points against the US dollar amid concern on Turkey's political and economic future.

The lira already lost a third of its value over the past year, making it the second worst performing currency in the world after the Argentinian peso.

Erdogan's authoritarian pivot has also seen inflation soar to nearly 20 percent and unemployment rise to 15 percent, harming his popularity and posing questions on what happens if the CHP's Imamoglu was to win Istanbul a second time in June.

Investigation

Leaked document sheds light on Turkey's 'controlled coup'

More than two years after the failed putsch, evidence is trickling out to support what the EU initially suspected - that Erdogan knew what was going to happen and let it go ahead as a pretext to create one-man rule.

Interview

Inside Erdogan's torture chambers

A Turkish former Nato official, living in exile in Belgium, tells EUobserver what he and others went through when the Erdogan regime branded them traitors.

EU urges US not to start war with Iran

Europe's top diplomats have said US actions risked triggering a conflict with Iran, as America makes plans to pour troops into Middle East in echoes of Iraq war.

News in Brief

  1. EU flies rainbow flag on anti-homophobia day
  2. EU to freeze money and visas of foreign cyber-attackers
  3. EU reassures US on arms sales
  4. Use euros over dollars in energy contracts, France says
  5. UK cross-party Brexit talks collapse
  6. Climate activists occupy German-Russian gas pipeline
  7. Farage got €515,000 of private perks
  8. French EU commissioner urges Italy not to overspend

Opinion

Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all

The foreign affairs minister of Haiti calls for the replacement EU-Africa, Caribbean, Pacific 'Cotonou' agreement of 2000 to be updated to take account climate change, infrastructure and tourism to help the country transition away from aid-dependence.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us