Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated on Saturday that he backs a re-run of local elections in Istanbul, rekindling allegations of voting irregularities in the city.
The Istanbul elections resulted in the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) defeat when the main opposition, secular Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Ekrem Imamoglu, surpassed AKP by 28,000 votes according to the initial results.
Losing the race in Istanbul was a serious blow to President Erdogan who started his political career there as mayor. Speaking on the topic of Istanbul votes at an event organized by the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen Association (MUSIAD), Erdogan said: “There is a controversy here, it’s clear. There is an irregularity here, that’s clear too.”
Referring to a re-run of local elections, he added: “Let’s go to the people and see what they say, and whatever the outcome, we will accept it.” Erdogan did not elaborate on, or present evidence on the voting irregularities that he was referring to, which he believes will change the results in Istanbul in favor of the governing AKP if the election is re-run.
“We don’t want to sacrifice March 31 [local elections] to irregularities and unlawful practices,” the president said.
Following the initial results, the ruling AKP submitted several appeals to the top election authority and demanded a recount of votes in all 39 districts of Istanbul. The Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) accepted some of the appeals and ruled for partial and full vote recounts in numerous districts across Istanbul.
After almost ten percent of the votes were recounted, the winner of the Istanbul race did not change. However, the vote margin between Imamoglu and AKP’s candidate, Binali Yildirim, who is also the former prime minister of Turkey, dropped to 13,900.
Pointing out the vote count discrepancy after the recount, Erdogan stated: “If the vote count variance dropped to 13,000 from 28,000 [after the recounts], this means that the voting irregularities are pretty obvious. So, shouldn’t we go after this?”
The Turkish President also stressed: “My citizens tell me this: ‘the election [in Istanbul] should be redone’.”
The president called on the YSK to make a decision that would eliminate controversies on the Istanbul vote and “clear its name”.
The YSK is expected to rule on Monday, on the extraordinary objection filed by the governing AKP with the demand to annul and repeat local polls in Istanbul.
Main opposition CHP spokesman Faik Oztrak told reporters later on Saturday that there are no voting irregularities and that it was time for Erdogan and his AKP to accept the defeat in Istanbul.
“They are unable to accept defeat. They put pressure on the YSK [to rule in their favor]. They point out CHP as a target [for voting irregularities] and won’t stop attempts to defame the party,” Oztrak added.
He also held forth that claiming fraud in a lost race is not a sincere attitude on Erdogan’s part.
CHP’s Imamoglu received his official mandate as the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mayor 17 days after the March 31 local elections when the recount of votes in the city was finalized.