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The New Arab

Turkey's ruling party to apply for re-run of hotly-contested Istanbul election

'Spring has come to Istanbul', says a poster for CHP candidate Imamoglu [AFP]

Date of publication: 9 April, 2019

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Turkey's ruling party will apply for Istanbul's mayoral elections to be held again, AKP deputy chairman Ali Ihsan Yavuz said on Tuesday afternoon.

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will apply for Istanbul's hotly contested mayoral elections to be held again, party deputy chairman Ali Ihsan Yavuz announced on Tuesday afternoon.

This follows news earlier on Tuesday that the Supreme Electoral Board (YSK) rejected a separate AKP request for a full recount of all votes cast in the Istanbul election.

The AKP had on Sunday applied for a full recount of all votes cast in the mayoral race citing "excessive voting irregularities", according to local media.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday claimed there was evidence the "irregular" vote had been marred by "organised crime".

Unofficial results initially pointed to the AKP losing the city, its long-term stronghold, to the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), whose candidate Ekrem Imamoglu earned a narrow 28,000 vote lead.

A partial recount of votes, requested by the AKP, diminished Imamoglu's lead to around 15,000 votes.

Claims by the AKP of an "organised crime" at the ballot boxes, and accusations in pro-AKP media of a "ballot box coup", are yet to move the YSK beyond granting the party an additional partial recount of votes in 51 ballot boxes across the city, around 17,000 votes in total.

Members of the YSK are appointed by appointed by the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK).

Four of the 11 members of the HSK are directly appointed by Erdogan. The other seven are elected by parliament, where the AKP holds 49 percent of the seats and its ally the MHP holds an addition 8 percent.

Despite this structure, the YSK's rejection of the AKP's request for a recount on Tuesday makes it unclear as to whether the electoral board will allow for a re-run of the mayoral race.

The hotly contested 31 March local elections were widely seen as the first major test for Erdogan and his party since the leader was elected Turkey's first executive president in 2018.

The loss of Ankara - Turkey's capital, which had been held by the AKP and its predecessor the Welfare Party (RP) since 1994 - to the CHP has been a major blow to the ruling party.

The CHP say Imamoglu has clearly won the race for Istanbul, also held by the AKP and RP since 1994.

Opposition voices fear that the AKP will not give up the prize of Istanbul, and is "manipulating" official institutions and the media to prompt suspicions of vote rigging.

Istanbul is not only symbolically important, the metropolis - alongside Ankara and Izmir, a CHP stronghold - is Turkey's economic powerhouse and cultural centre.

It is also the city were AKP-affiliated business people have been granted the largest contracts - sometimes multi million or billion dollar contracts - by the city municipality.

Such business links have seen the AKP, and Erdogan personally, accused of cronyism and corruption by opposition voices.


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