In a June 26, 2019 op-ed for the Washington Post‘s Monkey Cage blog, “Five lessons from the latest elections in Turkey,” POMED Nonresident Senior Fellow Howard Eissenstat explains the lessons learned from Istanbul’s mayoral elections.

The weekend’s election results were a stunning rebuke to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The clear victor in the new Istanbul municipal election was the Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate, Ekrem Imamoglu, overturning 25 years of governance by Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) or its precursors.

It is a turning point for the city of 15 million and, indeed, for all of Turkey. The full repercussions of Sunday’s election may take years to fully understand, but some lessons are already clear.

Pessimists (like me) overstated our case

As elections became increasingly unfair and unfree, many scholars increasingly saw Turkey as a hybrid state, combining elections with authoritarian tools to limit effective opposition. I argued in 2018 that Erdogan coupled a need for contested elections with a determination to win them, even if it meant rigging the system.

On the whole, I stand by my argument, but the Istanbul election proved me wrong in three important ways. First, Erdogan’s system required both a divided opposition and narrowly contested elections. In the 2019 municipal elections, the opposition was able to unify, making Erdogan’s old system of divide and conquer harder to pull off.

Second, his system of electoral fixing, including harassment of opposition candidates, manipulation of voter rolls and control of the media has proved more difficult to maintain in local elections, particularly in major urban centers, than it has in national elections…

Read the full article here.