ANKARA – Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has asked on Tuesday that recent mayoral elections in the city of Istanbul, which preliminary results suggest will be won by the main opposition party, be repeated citing alleged irregularities.
Although the count was yet to be made official by the country’s Supreme Election Board (YSK), early counting suggests the race for the mayorship of Turkey’s largest city was narrowly clinched by the Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem Imamoglu.
It came as a blow for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose hardline AKP also lost the capital Ankara in the March 31 municipal elections. The vote was widely interpreted as a bellwether for the president’s popularity.
The AKP had fielded Binali Yildirim, a former prime minister, for the Istanbul race.
The AKP’s deputy chairman, Ali Ihsan Yavuz announced the move in a televised press conference broadcast just after the YSK rejected the demand.
An AKP ally, the right-wing populist Nationalist Action Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli, supported the re-election demand saying it was a democratic route when the result of an election did not satisfy the citizens.
Imamoglu responded to AKP’s demand calling on the YSK to finish the process of counting as soon as possible and accused the AKP of demanding a repetition of a game it lost.
“There is no repeating of the election on the agenda,” Imamoglu said.
Ilhan Cihaner, an executive board member of CHP and a former prosecutor, told Efe over the phone that after the YSK decision of rejecting a full recount in Istanbul it was impossible to rerun the election.
“There is nothing concrete in AKP’s demand to rerun the election. Something like that would be totally illegal and against democracy,” he said. “The election was held under the strict control of this government which declared it as the most transparent and perfect election system of the world just before the election.”
“What changed when they lost the election?” he said.
Just before leaving for a visit to Russia earlier in the week, Erdogan said the local elections were marred by “organized crime” at ballot boxes in Istanbul and raised the possibility of re-running the election in the city.