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Erdogan’s party yet to concede defeat in Istanbul amid vote recount

Turkey’s top election authority ruled for a full recount of votes in three districts and partial re-examination of invalid ballots in 15 districts in Istanbul amid ongoing controversy over who won the mayoral race in Turkey’s largest city. On the other hand, opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu, who won the mayoral race with a narrow edge, demanded the official mandate from the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) to rule the city.

Istanbul became a very contested city from the very first moments of the election day. After hours of wrangling, YSK President Sadi Guven announced on Monday that Imamoglu received 4,159,650 votes while Yildirim got 4,131,761 votes in Istanbul.

According to YSK official results, Imamoglu won 27,000 more votes than Yildirim. But three days after the election, the ruling AKP and its candidate Yildirim still refuse to concede a defeat. The defiant stance of AKP became much clear when it appealed the vote and demanded a recount of votes in many parts of the city. The YSK, in a series of twists and turns, decided for a full recount of votes in three districts while it ruled for a partial re-examination of invalid ballots in at least 15 districts.

The YSK accepted the AKP’s quest and ruled for a recount. “The recounting process is not only evaluated in terms of the objecting party,” Guven told media in Ankara on Wednesday, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

The move sparked fresh debate over the legal nature of the AKP’s appeal. But Guven underlined that the re-examination of invalid votes in the election complies with the legal regulation rooted in Article 298 of Turkey’s election law and YSK’s own rules about elections.

Before the full results came from the YSK, AKP candidate Yildirim declared his victory. “We have won the election in Istanbul. May the results be beneficial for Istanbul and our country,” Reuters quoted the former prime minister and Parliament speaker as saying.

But opposition candidate Imamoglu dismissed Yildirim’s remarks as political meddling and manipulation to sway the outcome of the election.

The local elections, in general, came as a stunning rebuke to President Erdogan’s party. While there is still quarrel and squabbling over Istanbul, there is less controversy in Ankara where opposition candidate Mansur Yavas ended the 25-year rule of the city by Islamist parties. He won at least 50 percent of the votes against AKP’s Mehmet Ozhaseki who was able to garner 47 percent.

Imamoglu’s win also spells the end of conservative parties’ grip over Istanbul since 1994 local elections which paved the way for the rise of Erdogan in Turkey’s political scene.

Although Imamoglu won the contest in Istanbul, the controversy still ensues. Deputy AKP Chairman Ali Ihsan Yavuz claimed that with every vote recount in ballot boxes in Istanbul’s districts, the gap between Imamoglu and Yildirim now declined below 20,000. If things go in this course of re-count, he suggested, then the prospect of Yildirim’s win would be in the realm of possibility. He insisted that the discrepancy between two candidates will soon be closed and disappeared.

Yildirim whose victory remarks incurred the wrath of party leadership is far from giving the ground. “People of Istanbul made their decision and this decision will be announced by the YSK. If Imamoglu trusts the YSK, then he has to wait for the final result it will deliver,” the Turkish news web portal Diken quoted Yildirim as saying.

President Erdogan, after three days of silence, offered his comments on the contested situation in Istanbul. “The majority is with us,” Erdogan told the Turkish media. The process is still continuing, the president contended, portraying the opposition candidate as a “lame duck.”

The lame duck is a political conception used to describe an impotent political leader who wins the election, but loses the majority in the legislative branch. Thus he is unable to steer his policy proposals and draft bills through the legislative body. In that situation, he is rendered completely dependent on the goodwill of the opposition side.

Subtitle Opposition Candidate Eyes for Mandate to Run Istanbul

While the ruling AKP’s objections show no signs of receding, Imamoglu, the hero of the upset victory in Istanbul, is eyeing for acquiring the mandate from the YSK to run the city. In a display of firm belief in the results, Imamoglu changed his Twitter status, adding “Mayor of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality” to his profile.

This comes as a stark contrast to AKP’s three-day displays of banners, which show Binali Yildirim as Istanbul Mayor, in the main roads, railway and subway stations, ports, intersections and other major public buildings across the city.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Imamoglu stated that it was time for the YSK to grant him the mandate to run the city.

He admitted that there would be some mistakes in any election, but he noted that none of them were enough substantial and significant to sway the result of the current vote in Istanbul. The opposition nominee pleaded action and intervention from President Erdogan and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli to not let things go off the course in Istanbul.

“If the decision made under pressure in Istanbul, the society would not accept that. The YSK is the institution with authority. I plead them to manage the process with utmost sensitivity.”

The opposition candidate, whose standing surprised the whole world, recounted the aftermath of the 1994 elections. Then Erdogan from Islamist-rooted Welfare (Refah) Party won an upset victory in Istanbul against Nurrettin Sozen from Motherland (Anavatan) Party. As Imamoglu recollected the display of civic respect after the election, Sozen conceded defeat and posed for a photograph with Refah leader Necmettin Erbakan, new Istanbul mayor Erdogan in a gesture of comity.

He said with dismay that Turkey went backward amid corrosion of civic decorum and mutual respect among rival politicians.

While the public was occupied with the lack of clarity over who won in Istanbul, there was another concern that loomed large among the CHP leadership. Since Sunday, the CHP has grown suspicious that the AKP staff and personnel in Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality were busy with disposing of materials and papers that would document massive corruption, embezzlement, tender rigging and other elements of official misconduct.

Speaking to reporters, Imamoglu said he received information from insiders within the Municipality. The former personnel divulged details of removing proofs of corruption within the AKP-run municipality.

New Istanbul mayor hints AKP hiding corruption by destroying municipal documents

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