Turkey local elections: Erdogan’s AKP party demands full recount after narrowly losing Istanbul

‘We have detected rigging and irregularities,’ says spokesman of Erdogan’s AKP

Borzou Daragahi
Istanbul
Tuesday 02 April 2019 20:11
Comments
Erdogan's party challenges results of Istanbul election

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political party, stung after losing political control of Istanbul for the first time in a quarter of a century, has demanded a full recount of a Sunday’s close municipal elections on Tuesday, alleging “irregularities” and miscounting in a process the government has overseen and tightly controlled for years.

Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) also sought a recount of some districts of Ankara, the capital, which it also lost but by a more substantial margin. The move suggested the AKP would not give up Istanbul without a fight.

Erdogan is a native of the city’s working-class waterfront Kasimpasa district, and has remarked repeatedly that Istanbul is the key to controlling Turkey.

The sprawling city of 15 million is a source of massive real-estate deals and development projects that have been the lifeblood of Erdogan’s national political machine. But the party also wants to show a political base disappointed by the Sunday’s election losses that it is doing everything it can to retain power, even if it ultimately relents.

“At the end of the day it’s the election watchdog that will announce the official results,” says Serkan Demirtas, Ankara bureau chief for Hurriyet Daily News, an English-language newspaper.

“They are trying to find ways to appeal over a number of irregularities they are claiming. But they will have to accept the results at some point. The elections were free and there were no big rumours or speculation about fraud.”

Mild-mannered Istanbul mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu, of the secular-nationalist, centre-left People’s Republican Party (CHP), surprised Turkey’s political world by defeating his well-financed AKP rival by 25,000 out of more than 8 million votes cast. CHP made other surprising inroads, though the AKP received the most votes and remain the country’s foremost political organisation.

On Tuesday, Erdogan struck a conciliatory tone: “There is no loser in these elections. The winner is every one of our people who cast their votes, whether they voted for us or not,” he wrote on his Twitter account, referring to victories in 15 metropolitan areas, a tally that excludes Istanbul.

“We will continue to establish bridges of love with our people while being aware of the message given at the ballots.”

Still, AKP supporters have ratcheted up rhetoric alleging cheating and vote fraud in the Istanbul election. Authorities have begun posting billboards across Istanbul featuring Erdogan and AKP mayoral contender Binali Yildirim, a former prime minister and speaker of parliament, thanking Istanbul for its support.

They will have to accept the results at some point. The elections were free and there were no big rumours or speculation about fraud

Serkan Demirtas, Ankara bureau chief, Hurriyet Daily News

AKP officials, including Yildirim, allege that the number of invalidated votes exceed the opposition’s margin of victory.

In a constant stream of press appearances, AKP officials allege irregularities, mistakes, discrepancies and wrong entries.

“We have detected rigging and irregularities that violate the legislation and a fair election environment from the start of the voting process,” Senocak said.

AKP spokesman Omer Celik vowed to ”respect the results regardless of the outcome, as it is our people’s choice”.

Many opposition members suspect the Supreme Election Council (YSK) that will weigh the merits of any fraud and allegations, and oversee any recount is packed with AKP loyalists. In the past, it has rejected requests for recounts and ignored allegations of impropriety submitted by opposition parties.

Critics of the government accused the AKP of dishonestly wresting control of the Ankara municipality from front-runner Mansur Yavas in 2014 elections.

Attempting a similar move against Imamoglu in the more high-profile Istanbul race could prompt protests and violence that could further damage Turkey’s relations with the west.

Imamoglu said he trusted the YSK, but was disappointed with the behaviour of the AKP. “This chaos makes me sad,” he told reporters on Tuesday before heading to Ankara to confer with CHP leaders. “If I lost this election, I would congratulate my rival. We are confident because we are right. Political ideology will not rule over logic.”

Though vote tallies have not been officially sanctioned, both Imamoglu and Ankara mayor-elect Yavas, also of the CHP, have changed their Twitter biographies to identify themselves as mayor.

Elsewhere in the country the opposition nationalist Iyi party contested the results of the election in Usak, a town in western Turkey that the AKP won with just a few hundred votes.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in