WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan24) – As Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) challenges its losses in Sunday’s local elections, the State Department on Tuesday called on the Turkish government to respect the results.
“Free and fair elections are essential for any democracy,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said, as he responded to a question from Kurdistan 24.
“This means acceptance of legitimate election results are essential,” Palladino continued, “and we expect nothing less from Turkey,” adding, that the country has “a long, proud tradition in this respect.”
In Sunday’s vote, the AKP lost Turkey’s two biggest cities—Ankara, the country’s political capital, and Istanbul, its financial capital—to the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). The AKP has governed Istanbul, where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began his political career, since the 1990s, while it has prevailed in Ankara for the same period of time: a quarter of a century.
The CHP success was due, in part, to a decision of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), to urge its supporters to vote for the CHP in areas where the HDP, itself, was not likely to succeed.
According to preliminary results announced late on Sunday, the CHP bested the AKP in Istanbul by a small margin, winning 48.79 percent of the vote, squeaking past its rival by less than three-tenths of a percentage point: about 25,000 votes. In Ankara, the difference between the two parties was greater, with the CHP gaining 50.93 percent of the vote to the AKP’s 47.12 percent.
The AKP has responded by challenging the vote counts in both cities, and despite its loss, plastered Istanbul with posters, thanking the city’s voters for its electoral victory.
The Turkish government responded testily to Palladino’s remarks, as the state-run Anadolu Agency reported late on Tuesday, citing Turkish officials.
“We urge all parties, including foreign governments, to respect the legal process and refrain from taking any steps that may be construed as meddling in Turkey’s internal affairs,” Erdogan’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, tweeted.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hami Aksoy, issued a statement, “No country has the right to intervene in the election results of another country in a way that is far from law and democracy,” while he affirmed, “Anti-democratic approaches and habits can no way overshadow Turkey’s democratic maturity.”
However, Erdogan’s ever-increasing autocratic methods have raised serious concerns abroad. As the editors of The New York Times noted on Tuesday, the Western democracies have “been losing hope that Turkey can be a reliable ally.”
“The latest election results offer a chance to assure [Erdogan] that any tampering would widen that breach”—which was pretty much the thrust of Palladino’s remarks.
The Times also expressed concern that “Erdogan could try to increase his flagging support by undertaking long-threatened military operations against America’s Kurdish allies in Syria.”
That is one of a series of issues that have roiled relations between the US and Turkey. They also include Turkey’s repeatedly stated determination to purchase the Russian air defense system, the S-400, which prompted the Pentagon on Monday to suspend Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program, although Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said on Tuesday that he expected the dispute would be resolved.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is in Washington for a meeting of NATO’s foreign ministers to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the alliance. He will meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday.
Editing by Nadia Riva