The leader of the Liberal faction in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt has just decried a decision by Turkish officials to conduct a re-vote in the contentious Istanbul Mayoral race. During the initial vote on 31 March, it was proclaimed that CH Party candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu beat AK Party candidate Binali Yıldırım by a razor thin margin.
Since the initial tally, AK representatives have challenged the result alleging serious irregularities that could have influenced the vote in favour of İmamoğlu. Today, the Turkish Supreme Election Council (YSK) annulled the result of the 31 March election for the Mayoralty in Istanbul and have scheduled a new election to take place on 23 June.
Although such re-run elections are never ideal, in circumstance when a preponderance of evidence indicates that there were enough irregularities present that could have changed the result, re-run elections become the least bad of no good options. This is what the YSK has decided upon in a manner consistent with the principles of mainstream 21st century democracy.
But while the re-run election will be conducted according to normal democratic principles, this has failed to satisfy the notoriously vocal Guy Verhofstadt. The EU Liberal big wig has taken to Twitter to say the following:
“This outrageous decision highlights how Erdogan’s Turkey is drifting towards a dictatorship. Under such leadership, accession talks are impossible. Full support to the Turkish people protesting for their democratic rights and for a free and open Turkey!”
First of all, it was not President Erdoğan who made the decision to hold a new election. It was the YSK’s decision, a body made up of members from multiple parties who then vote on a majoritarian basis in order to enact a decision. In this case, the democratic decision to hold a new election passed by a margin of seven against four.
Secondly, if Turkey’s long stalled quest to join the EU would portend future anti-democratic interference from the likes of Guy Verhofstadt, perhaps many in Turkey ought to be thankful that Brussels has recently leaned against full Turkish membership of the EU. Finally, it is not the “Turkish people” protesting. Those protesting are CH Party workers and supporters who are naturally upset by the electoral re-run. Likewise, supporters of the AK Party had peacefully protested in favour of a re-run. There is nothing unusual about this and of course the protests are occurring freely and without violence.
But the greatest absurdity of Guy Verhofstadt’s meddlesome comments is that while he decries a second vote in a local Turkish election, he has consistently agitated for Britain to hold a re-run vote in order to overturn the Brexit decision made by voters in 2016.
Unlike in the Istanbul election, the British government and opposition parties all accept that the 2016 election was without any worrisome irregularities. In other words, the Brexit referendum was a free and fair vote whilst Turkish authorities have decided that there were too many irregularities in the Istanbul vote for the initial result to be accepted as legitimate.
And yet, Verhofstadt is allying himself with forces that want to overturn a universally acknowledged legitimate vote whilst complaining that a vote in Turkey found to be illegitimate must be set in stone. Once again, double standards rule the day in Brussels.