Thursday 23 May 2019

Turkey risks unrest over call for new Istanbul poll

Tensions: Republican People’s Party (CHP) mayoral candidate, Ekrem Imamoglu, waves to the crowd during a rally in Istanbul. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Tensions: Republican People’s Party (CHP) mayoral candidate, Ekrem Imamoglu, waves to the crowd during a rally in Istanbul. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Selcan Hacaoglu and Firat Kozok

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party has officially called for a new election in Istanbul, raising the prospect of renewed political turmoil just as the government sought to shore up confidence in the economy and avert a showdown with the US over missiles.

The AK Party submitted an "extraordinary objection" to the election board yesterday while a partial recount of the votes in some districts was under way. It alleged irregularities tainted the results of the March 31 vote that put an opposition candidate ahead in the mayoral race.

Mr Erdogan held the post of Istanbul mayor in the 1990s and his refusal to concede defeat has been condemned by political opponents as another attack on Turkey's democratic foundations.

It's also rattled investors in the region's biggest economy, with the lira down 0.3pc against the dollar on Tuesday. "Even if the High Election Board rejects this request, the damage to Turkey's reputation is already done," said Tim Ash, senior strategist at BlueBay Asset Management in London.

These are testing political and economic times for Turkey, and Mr Erdogan is struggling to contain the fallout after 17 years in power.

The economy entered its first recession in a decade following a currency crash last year and the International Monetary Fund predicts it will contract by more than 2pc.

Mr Erdogan's position as leader is intact, but he unexpectedly lost control of Turkey's largest cities in local elections. Ties with the US, meanwhile, are at their worst since at least the 1970s in part because of Turkey's decision to purchase Russian missiles.

The government in Ankara said it was forced to turn to Russia for protection against aerial attacks after Washington baulked for years at selling it Patriot missile defence systems.

The US says the Russian missile shield was designed to shoot down American and allied aircraft.

Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, Mr Erdogan's son-in-law, said Turkey has taken its case for buying a Russian air-defence system directly to US President Donald Trump to defuse tensions. He told reporters on Monday there was "quite positive feedback".

Washington has threatened to impose sanctions and to expel Turkey from the F-35 allied defence programme, moves that would likely intensify market turmoil, as happened during a diplomatic standoff last year.

Bloomberg

Irish Independent

Also in Business