When the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month lost its Istanbul mayorship by a narrow margin, Turkey braced itself for change.
Historically, whoever has held Istanbul has gone on to lead the country, and the opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu, who won the mayoralty, represented a new era for the country.
The municipal elections which were held across Turkey on March 31 were seen as a referendum on Erdogan’s leadership as the economy slowed.
AKP candidates took the majority of the votes, but in Istanbul, as well as Ankara and Izmir, the CHP party won out.
However, Erdogan refused to accept the defeat, claiming that irregularities invalidated the vote. Now, a new election has been announced for June 23, sparking protests and international outcry.
An AKP representative on the electoral board said the re-run was called because some of the result papers had not been signed.
However, Imamoglu’s Republican People’s Party (CHP) said the re-run simply showed that it was "illegal to win against the AK Party".
Imamoglu, who has been stripped of his mayoral duties and title, said the move was “treacherous”, and vowed that Turkey’s citizens would fight for democracy.
EU and leading member states have condemned the re-run, with an EU spokesperson calling on the electoral body to explain itself “without delay”.
Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Mass said the re-run was "incomprehensible", while the French government called for "respect for democratic principles, pluralism, fairness [and] transparency".
The EU’s diplomatic chief Ferderica Mogherini said “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."
At a parliamentary meeting, Erdogan said the re-run was the “best step” for Turkey.
"We see this decision as the best step that will strengthen our will to solve problems within the framework of democracy and law," he said.
Erdogan claimed there was “illegality” in the vote, and the re-run would address this and ultimately strengthen democracy.
However, sources say Erdogan’s AKP is split over the decision, with some of its members planning to break from the party to form their own.
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