Erdogan hints at Istanbul poll re-run as he casts doubt on vote

Turkish president says irregularities at ballot boxes undermine opposition’s slim victory

Supporters of Ekrem Imamoglu, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate for Istanbul mayor, wave Turkish flags during a rally on Monday.  Photograph: Erdem Sahin/EPA

Supporters of Ekrem Imamoglu, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate for Istanbul mayor, wave Turkish flags during a rally on Monday. Photograph: Erdem Sahin/EPA

 

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday Turkey’s local elections were marred by “organised crime” at ballot boxes in Istanbul, raising the possibility of re-running a March 31st vote that handed a slim majority to the main opposition party.

Mr Erdogan’s AK Party has already lost the mayoralty in the capital Ankara to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), and it has appealed several stages of the count in Istanbul which showed a narrow CHP victory.

The Islamist-rooted AKP is reeling from the potential loss of both cities, which the party and its predecessors have governed for a quarter of a century. Mr Erdogan himself rose to prominence as Istanbul mayor in the 1990s before emerging as national leader.

Mr Erdogan said the scale of electoral irregularities his party had uncovered meant the margin of votes between Istanbul’s top two candidates, less than 20,000 in a city of 10 million voters, was too narrow for the opposition to claim victory.

Speaking before departing for talks in Russia with President Vladimir Putin, Mr Erdogan said voting in other countries, including the United States, was often re-run if the margin of victory was below 1 per cent. “They believe that such tight margins do not give comfort to the public,” he said.

He gave no example of an election re-run in those circumstances.

The AKP has appealed to the High Election Board (YSK) for a full recount of votes cast in the election across all 39 districts of Istanbul. The YSK is looking into the AKP’s challenges but has not commented on Mr Erdogan’s accusations.

“The citizens are telling us to protect their rights, they are complaining of organised crimes,” Mr Erdogan told a press conference in Istanbul. “And we, as political parties, have determined such organised crimes.”

Recounts

Ekrem Imamoglu, the CHP’s Istanbul mayoral candidate, said on Monday he was still leading with a margin of some 15,500 votes – down from 25,000 – after up to 95 per cent of partial recounts had been completed.

Mr Erdogan said he would only accept the Istanbul result when the YSK had processed all the appeals.

“Nobody has the right to get in an election victory mood in a city of 10 million voters with a margin of 13,000-14,000. When the appeals have been completed, we will accept the result.”

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the secularist CHP, warned that the security of the election was in danger and called on the election board to be impartial. He added that Mr Erdogan’s request for a full recount lacked a reasonable justification.

“Now the High Electoral Board has entered a process that damages the security of the ballot boxes, the security of the election. This is the real danger,” Mr Kilicdaroglu told reporters in Ankara.

The AKP had also sought recounts across Ankara, where initial results showed CHP candidate Mansur Yavas winning by four percentage points. But the YSK upheld the result and on Monday Mr Yavas formally received his mandate as new mayor. – Reuters