Populists don’t lose elections

Turkey’s High Electoral Council has ordered a rerun of Istanbul’s mayoral election, which the candidate from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party narrowly lost last month. Since the vote, the Turkish strongman had kept complaining that the victory of an opposition candidate had been a result of irregularities or outright “theft at the ballot box.” This blatantly anti-democratic move — let’s have votes until the government gets the result it wants — is, in part, a matter of realpolitik: Mr. Erdogan’s party, and even his immediate family, depend on the resources available only to those who hold power in Istanbul, Turkey’s business center. But it also has a logic that is specific to authoritarian populists.

Politicians like Mr. Erdogan are distinguished by their claim that only they truly represent the people. They suggest they can lose at the polls only when elections have been rigged by liberal elites. There are many leaders like Mr. Erdogan around the world right now, including Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary and the president of the United States. In an interview last week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a reporter for this newspaper that she worries that if President Trump is defeated in 2020 by a narrow-enough margin, he will, like Mr. Erdogan, refuse to accept the legitimacy of the election. Ms. Pelosi has good reason to worry.

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