Murat Yetkin - 


“This has never happened in political history before” Turkish opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu claims; “It’s the first time that a one-man rule was defeated through the ballot box:; we’re writing a new chapter in political history.”
He carried on to elaborate that the results of the March 31 municipal elections, where the country’s five largest cities were won by the CHP candidates, despite President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s great efforts to transform the country into a one-man -rule, were the proof of that defeat. Upon persistent applications and statements by Erdoğan, the Supreme Election Board (YSK), which consists of high judges, had cancelled the Istanbul results on May 6, officially declaring a re-run for Istanbul metropolitan municipality elections, setting it to take place on June 23.
“We will do it again” Kılıçdaroğlu claimed during our conversation where another colleague, Muharrem Sarıkaya of HaberTürk was also present, right after his address to his Parliamentary group on May 20; “We took every measure to prevent ballot box fraud. There will be a volunteer lawyer, observing each and every [31,186] ballot box in addition to the official ballot officers. If there won’t be any road accident, our candidate, Ekrem İmamoğlu will win again with a better margin.”
Kılıçdaroğlu says that Erdoğan did not expect the defeat, especially in Istanbul, and that even AKP voters who “have a conscience” were having difficulties accepting the lost election’s re-run. Using the term “road accident”, Kılıçdaroğlu implies there might be unforeseeable moves towards postponing the election, or another YSK move upon Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) if his candidate, former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım loses again.
İmamoğlu had won the election with a difference of 13 thousand votes among Istanbul’s 11 million registered voters, yet some 1.5 had not turned up on March 31. Istanbul municipality is important for Erdoğan not only because it was the start of his rise in politics 25 years ago, but also because the city is home to one-sixth of Turkey’s population of 82 million, producing almost a third of the country’s GDP. İmamoğlu claimed that funds have been siphoned from the budget of the municipality to the foundations and companies close to Erdoğan’s AKP, referring to the documents he has seen during the 17 days in office before the YSK cancelled his mandate.
On May 20, during his appearance on a CNN International affiliate CNN Türk TV program, İmamoğlu started to give some figures regarding the financial irregularities of the municipality under a 25- year rule. Under AKP mayors. The show was live, and the anchor, Ahmet Hakan Coşkun, abruptly ended the program 40 minutes earlier than its previously announced runtime. Emin Çapa, who used to be the head of the economy desk before getting fired by the channel’s new owners, said in his Twitter account that Çoşkun ended the program after CNN Türk directors urged him to upon warnings from government circles. “That TV program was shameful,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. He too had been mocked much earlier by another anchor, Buket Aydın of Kanal-D (another channel belonging to the same media group as CNN Türk), before the first run of the municipal elections on March 31. It is worth noting once again that about 90 per cent of the media outlets in Turkey owned by investors close to Erdoğan.
The stakes are high in Istanbul but Turkey’s economy is in trouble with the rises in inflation, unemployment and , interest rates, as well as the current account deficit. In his address to Parliament, Kılıçdaroğlu recalled an earlier statement of Finance and Treasury Minister Berat Albayrak, also President Erdoğan’s son in law; Albayrak had promised that 2.5 million new jobs would be created in 2019. “1 million 376 thousand more people lost their jobs in the last year,” said Kılıçdaroğlu, accusing Albayrak of being incompetent.
Turkey’s foreign policy issues, topped by the rift with the U.S. over the purchase of Russian made S-400 missiles and American threats to stop the delivery of the jointly produced F-35 fighter jets puts additional pressure on the economy, as Erdoğan so far ruled out any deal with the IMF for a stand-by program.


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