The state-run Anadolu news agency (AA) has stopped sharing data of Turkey’s local election results late on Sunday when nearly two percent of the votes were left to be announced.
The move has sparked suspicion of manipulation among opposition members and voters.
Although the state-run AA announced more than 98 percent of the counted votes within hours after the election on Sunday, it has stopped updating its reports of the vote count for the remaining less than one percent, which drew rebuff by the opposition.
There was a tight race in Istanbul, between the ruling AK Party’s candidate Binali Yildirim and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)’s candidate Ekrem Imamoglu, on Sunday.
Yildirim had 48.70 percent of the votes against the Imamoglu’s 48.65 percent when state-run AA stopped updating its polling results around 11.21 pm, after it announced more than 98 percent of the votes.
Turkish voters, especially those favoring Imamoglu and expected him to win the race in Istanbul, reacted against AA and accused the agency of manipulating the results.
Nearly an hour after the agency stopped updating its results, voters reacted to the incident on social media and tweeted.
They used the hashtags #AnadoluAjansıHesapVer [AA account for your action] and #AnadoluAjansıSonuclarıAcıkla [AA announce the results].
While AKP’s Yildirim declared victory even though the race was too close to call, CHP’s Imamoglu said that he is leading in the Istanbul race with a margin of 27,000 votes, according to CHP data.
“Unfortunately there is manipulation at hand. I call on YSK [Supreme Election Board] officials to do their duty and check the data,” he said.
AA made an announcement over the debates regarding Istanbul’s mayoral candidates, saying the news agency had to stop updating its results because they haven’t received any accurate data about the remaining more than one percent of the counted votes.
“That’s why we decided to wait for the YSK to announce the official local election results,” stated the AA.
YSK Chair Sadi Guven also made a statement and stated that Imamoglu has been leading in Istanbul by a margin of 27,889 votes according to the council’s data.
“The AA is not receiving data from me. When the AA reached 90 percent [of the results], I had just begun to enter data [to our system],” Said Guven emphasizing that YSK does not provide any information service to AA. The opposition has been accusing the state-run AA of manipulating the election results in favor of the ruling AK Party. Opposition parties claim the AA pursues a deterrence policy of making AKP look like it leads the election by a wide margin.
As the AA continues to update its election data, the gap between AKP and others begins to close. The opposition claims the AA uses this deterrence policy in purpose to make ballot box observers that inspect vote counting process to lose hope and quit supervising.
AA became the only news agency covering Turkey’s election results since 2016 when Cihan news agency was closed under a statutory decree during the state of emergency in the aftermath of the attempted coup.
The agency was among 45 newspapers, 16 TV channels, and three news agencies shut down by the government decree as part of a widening crackdown on media in Turkey.