Turkey’s bar associations have raised their voice over the Supreme Electoral Council’s (YSK) ruling that the Istanbul mayoral election be annulled and rerun. Ekrem Imamoglu, candidate of the main opposition, secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), won the race on March 31, beating the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) by a small margin.
Following the defeat, the ruling AKP submitted numerous appeals to the YSK, including an extraordinary objection that demanded the Istanbul election be annulled and rerun on the grounds that there were alleged wide-spread voting irregularities.
On Monday, the YSK ruled in favor of AKP, arguing that 3,755 polling officials were not government employees, as required by law.
Bar associations jointly denounce YSK
Forty-nine Turkish bar associations published a joint declaration on Wednesday, saying the YSK’s ruling is not “juristically or conscientiously” acceptable.
“The decision, which was taken by ignoring our democracy accumulation, and our culture and judicial opinions that have been created over the years, has claimed its place in our history of democracy and law as a black mark,” the statement said.
Metin Feyzioglu, president of the Turkish Bar Association (TBB), said on Tuesday that there is public conscience discomfort with the contradictory ruling of the YSK. The TBB also directed five questions to the YSK, calling for credible answers.
“An envelope contains four different votes [for Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) assembly members, district mayors, neighborhood headmen, and IBB mayor]. If the creation of polling committees was illegal [polling officials were not public servants], how did the YSK annul the votes for the IBB mayor but accept the other three votes?” the TBB asked.
Erinc Sagkan, president of the Ankara Bar Association, slammed the YSK judges whose terms in office had been extended ahead of the local elections. Sagkan claimed that, because of the ruling, the judges have recorded their names in the darkest pages of the country’s history.
Earlier in the year, the AKP approved a legislative amendment extending the terms in office of YSK officials who were supposed to retire in January 2019.
YSK’s decision also criticized in 2017 referendum
Turkey held a referendum in April 2017 for a constitutional reform package that changed the country’s governance from a parliamentary to a presidential system. At the time, the referendum voting was marred by allegations of fraud.
On the day of the referendum, the YSK changed ballot validity criteria and accepted unstamped ballots as valid. The YSK’s move was then claimed by opposition parties as evidence of fraud.