Pro-government media coverage of opposition’s Istanbul win draws criticism

Media outlets supporting the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government on Wednesday came under criticism for the manner in which they reported the awarding of the mandate for Istanbul by the main opposition’s mayoral candidate.

On Wednesday, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)’s mayor-elect Ekrem Imamoglu received his official mandate to serve as the Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor, after garnering a total of 4,169,765 votes in the election.

The provincial electoral board summoned Imamoglu to an Istanbul courthouse to give him his official mandate a day after President Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP formally appealed to Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) for an annulment and do-over of Istanbul’s mayoral election, which is still pending.

Prominent figures from the AKP as well as the pro-government media organs formerly claimed that Imamoglu’s win was unlawful because opposition parties were allegedly involved in wide-spread election fraud.

A Haber covered Imamoglu’s receiving the mandate with the headline, “Scandalous decision of the provincial electoral board.”

The pro-government media outlet also quoted Okan Muderrisoglu, Sabah daily’s Ankara representative, as saying: “They [members of the opposition] are trying to make people think that the mandate has been given and there’s no turning back from that.”

Muderrisoglu pointed out that Imamoglu’s mandate could still be canceled if YSK rules to annul and rerun the election in Istanbul.

TV channels such as CNN Turk, NTV and Haberturk owned by the Demiroren Holding, which is known for being very close to president Erdogan, chose not to show mayor-elect Imamoglu at the courthouse where he arrived to receive his mandate.

The TV channels covered instead President Erdogan’s wife Emine Erdogan’s speech during an award ceremony taking place in London as part of the World Humanitarian Forum.

During a statement last week, Imamoglu criticized news outlets Hurriyet, Milliyet, Vatan, and CNN Turk owned by the Demiroren family for not covering his public statements.

“They cover what my rival told me in return without reporting my initial remarks. What can people make out from those words without my remarks?” he said.

Following the criticism, the pro-government media accused the mayor-elect of intimidating the press and reported on the issue with a headline that read: “We follow Imamoglu’s threats to media with sorrow.”

A day before the CHP mayor-elect received his mandate, Ibrahim Karagul, the chief editor of the pro-government Islamist daily Yeni Safak, accused the opposition party of collaborating with terror organizations in a tweet in which he used “CHP respect the law” hashtag.

“Imamoglu steals thousands of votes, and he’s right? The AKP takes legal action, and it’s wrong? Terrorists support this organized theft, but that poses no danger, is that so?” Karagul said.

The initial results of the Istanbul polls showed Imamoglu was nearly 28,000 votes ahead of his rival Binali Yildirim, the mayoral candidate of the AKP and a former prime minister.

Although Imamoglu has previously urged the authorities and the ruling AKP to concede defeat in Istanbul, the party refused to let go after holding the reigns as the ruler of the city for 25 years.

The vote margin between the two candidates started to close after YSK ruled for partial or full recounts across Turkey’s largest city following AKP’s appeals to election results in all 39 districts of the province.

After recounts of almost 10 percent of the votes in Istanbul were finalized, Imamoglu won the election by 13,900 votes, according to official results by the YSK.

Ali Ihsan Yavuz, the AKP’s Deputy Chairman claimed AKP would have won the race in Istanbul, if all the votes in the city had been recounted, instead of the 10 percent.

Imamoglu said AKP’s claims of organized election fraud was to “cover up their defeat.”

Turkey’s opposition gets the keys to Istanbul after 25 years

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