Don’t let Erdoğan seize Istanbul, Ankara, Bloomberg columnist says

The United States should not allow an increasingly authoritarian Turkish leader to steal control of Istanbul and Ankara from the opposition in a recount of Sunday’s election, Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake wrote.

In a functioning democracy, a review of alleged voting discrepancies could be seen as normal, but in Turkey it is a sign of something more ominous, Lake said on Wednesday.

The United States is trying hard to stop Turkey attacking its Kurdish allies in Syria and preventing it from buying S-400 air defence missiles from Russia, threatening possible sanctions if it does so. But now there is a more urgent need – protecting Turkish democracy – after Erdoğan lost Turkey’s two biggest cities to the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), according to Lake.

“Erdoğan has to understand that he will have a hard time getting help from the International Monetary Fund in fighting Turkey’s recession if he annuls the elections in Ankara and Istanbul,” Lake said.

“It should also be made clear to Erdoğan that his response to these electoral defeats will factor into future sanctions determinations against his government, on issues ranging from the purchase of Iranian oil to allegations that he has helped hide Venezuelan gold.”

Lake referred to a Council of Europe monitoring team report this week that found Turkey’s election did not meet European values or principles. Therefore, one can understand why the political opposition might be concerned that a recount would be used to overturn an already unfair vote, he said.

If these results are annulled, “it pretty much will be the end of elections in Turkey,” said Eric Edelman, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey.

“It’s unlikely that the Trump administration would make relations with Turkey even more tense by making an issue of local Turkish elections,” Lake said. “At the same time, to ignore Erdoğan’s meddling would be a grave error.

“He has already shown the world that he is willing to take hostages from the West, side with antagonists of the West and purchase military systems from adversaries of the West.

“Erdoğan has also shown that power is more important to him than democratic legitimacy. Turkey’s citizens, however, still take democracy seriously. At this crucial moment, the West should stand with them.”