Surprise! Erdogan Nullifies Istanbul Vote – Cue Incredulous EM Watchers

On Sunday evening, in our traditional week ahead preview, we gently suggested that things were likely to deteriorate further in Turkey this week.

Over the weekend, Anadolu reported that 43 polling station officials stand accused of having links to President Erdogan’s archenemy Fethullah Gulen. That was clearly a pretext that set the stage for the high election board to rule in favor of AKP, which has been attempting to secure a re-run of the Istanbul vote for weeks.

Erdogan’s farcical effort to effectively nullify the results of the Istanbul election is entirely consistent with Turkey’s ongoing descent into one-man rule. Obviously, Turkey’s pretensions to democracy are absurd, but one shouldn’t lose track of the fact that things are getting worse over time. Erdogan has been hard at work stripping away the last vestiges of democratic norms since he consolidated power last summer.

Headed into the local elections in late March, we variously insisted that while Erdogan would be willing to accept a less-than-perfect outcome, the prospect of a sweeping defeat would be a bridge too far. He would, we argued, nullify selected results by dictatorial decree before he would accept a result deemed too damaging to the party.

Well, sure enough, the Istanbul vote has been contested for weeks. CHP’s Ekrem Imamoglu finally assumed office on April 18, but AKP was pushing hard for a re-run of the mayoral vote citing widespread fraud. Around the same time, market angst around the country’s suspicious reserve accounting piled pressure on the currency.

Read more: ‘Oh Financial Times! What Do You Know’: Erdogan Furious As World Discovers Central Bank Lying About Reserves

A week later, on April 25, CBT dropped their tightening bias in a wholly unsurprising move that nevertheless shocked some EM watchers who have spent the last year clinging to the notion that the central bank retains some semblance of independence.

Read more: ‘This Is Much Worse Than Expected’: Analysts (Still) Struggling To Come To Terms With The Reality Of Erdogan

Exactly none of the issues outlined above have been resolved and neither, generally speaking, has the extremely contentious S400 spat between Washington and Ankara.

Well, anyone who was holding out hope that democracy would prevail in Istanbul was disappointed on Monday because (wouldn’t you know it), the high election board decided to nullify the municipal election results and call a new vote, at the request of Erdogan.

The lira promptly plunged on the news.

The Turkey ETF was similarly beset and it doesn’t help that this comes on a day when risk assets were already under siege from trade concerns.

If these levels hold, Monday will be the third-worst day of the year for the vehicle (bottom panel).

The new vote is scheduled for June 23. If you have any questions about how that’s likely to go, I would refer you to November 2015, when AKP managed a “surprisingly” dominant performance in a re-do of that year’s June vote in which the party lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in more than a decade.

If you’re an EM watcher and you didn’t see this coming, you have nobody to blame but yourself.

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2 thoughts on “Surprise! Erdogan Nullifies Istanbul Vote – Cue Incredulous EM Watchers

  1. As someone born in Istanbul nearly seven decades ago, I had been closely watching and worrying that we would come to this point. Because Erdogan’s and AKP’s Islamic groups had been financed on the back of major cities which Istanbul is the largest contributor. Changing hands through democratic means as it happened on March 31st., was too much for the diktator to bear as it signalled the end of his reign.
    Turkish opposition to Erdogan needs the support of western democracies to isolate him and the country. Because AKP will fix this re-election as they have “fixed” the all elections for the past 17 years. Turkey will continue its course toward abyss and the outcome will not only hurt the secular Turks but also the western democracies.

  2. If Trump loses in 2020, just watch him try the same thing, as he’s a ‘fan’ of Erdogan (and most dictators except Maduro).

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