Istanbul: Did the 54 per cent know what they were voting for?

Istanbul: Did the 54 per cent know what they were voting for?

by Jonathan Stanley
article from Monday 1, July, 2019

WHEN INCONVENIENT FACTS become visible nationalists suddenly fall silent…

Bute House has so far, surprisingly, been very quiet over one of the the largest elections in Europe this year. Maybe the fact that it was a rerun election to try and correct the result from the first time round is troubling their minds.

Over 8 million Europeans voted in Istanbul, one of Europe's largest cities. The ruling party in Turkey lost the capital with 54 per cent to 45 per cent of the vote in the city’s rerun election. European leaders like Guy Verhofstadt have been jubilant over the result that both rejects the autocratic snarling AKP and demonstrates that despite the rhetoric of demagogues the voter is always right.  

The questions though of course are clear:

  • Did the 54 per cent know what they were voting for? 
  • Was a 85 per cent turnout really enough to be convincing?
  • Given this was only the second vote on the matter within four months when will there by a third mayoral election in Istanbul?


The parallels to Scotland in 2014 are uncanny with the one exception in that in Turkey people voted to change, to reject an incumbent. Otherwise is it really so different?

To see ourselves as others see us is never easy but analogies are out there aplenty. It is not that Turks have stopped believing in Turkey, or even in Islam. They have instead rejected the combination of excessive state interference, intolerance of press criticism and a lacklustre economy that has veered off course.

Populism and being at angry at one's neighbours only gets you so far. Then the bread and butter issues start knocking at the door, the barbed rhetoric gets bitter and people in the real world decide they had enough of the nonsense and want to move on. 

The nationalists in Scotland are being found out…

…and the remain lobby in the UK are in no better a place. 

Rerunning elections after demonising the poorer half of the population has surprisingly not been well received by the public.  On the contrary the desire to get on with the job has grown all the more.

We are moving into a post-Brexit Britain. a post-populist offering will do better than pundits now imagine. In Scotland support for an immediate rerun of the 2014 referendum is running at about 20 per cent. 

Be it in Istanbul or Inverness there is a theme emerging. We are realigning, and past populisms are not the winning option.

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