Late on May 6, Turkey’s election board invalidated the results of a March mayoral election that cost President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party control of Istanbul. The decision sent stocks tumbling, and the opposition party called the move a coup.
Erdogan has been consolidating power for the better part of the past decade. In 2017 a constitutional referendum granted him authority to appoint ministers and judges and put much of the country’s economic policy at his discretion. Last year, the day after he was sworn in to a second term, he named his son-in-law finance minister.
The city is the country’s largest metropolis and its commercial center—more important, it’s where Erdogan got his political start. AKP has built an important patronage network there, doling out contracts for infrastructure projects to Erdogan supporters. The president told lawmakers in 2016: “If we lose Istanbul, we lose Turkey.”
New elections have been scheduled for June 23. Some in the main opposition party, CHP, which won narrowly in the original vote, called for a boycott, saying Erdogan’s party can’t be trusted to run a free and fair ballot. But CHP’s leadership says it will campaign again for the post, and smaller parties are aligning with them.