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Int’l community says re-run of İstanbul vote weakens Turkish democracy

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A decision by Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK) to re-run the mayoral election in İstanbul, where the opposition’s candidate won, has attracted criticism from the international community, with many describing the move as weakening Turkish democracy.

The YSK announced its 7-4 decision due to allegations of electoral fraud and irregularities after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost the race by a razor-thin margin in İstanbul in local elections held on March 31.

The European Parliament also said the YSK decision would end the credibility of democratic elections in Turkey while it called for Turkey’s election body to explain its reasons for the re-run “without delay.”

“Ensuring a free, fair and transparent election process is essential to any democracy and is at the heart of the European Union’s relations with Turkey,” the EU’s diplomatic chief, Federica Mogherini, said in a statement.

Kati Piri, Turkey rapporteur for the European Parliament (EP), tweeted: “Erdoğan does not accept defeat and goes against the will of the people. AKP pressured YSK to re-run local elections in İstanbul. This ends the credibility of democratic transition of power through elections in Turkey.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the decision was “not transparent, and incomprehensible to us.”

The French government also said the Turkish authorities needed to show “respect for democratic principles, pluralism, fairness [and] transparency” in the new poll.

CHP mayoral candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu won the election in İstanbul against the AKP’s candidate, Binali Yıldırım; however, İmamoğlu was not given the mandate to govern until April 17 because the AKP objected to the election results, asking for a recount of votes in many İstanbul districts.

The YSK’s decision, which was based on the assignment of polling station officials who were not public servants as stipulated by law, came after a number of objections filed by the AKP.

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