Istanbul’s deposed mayor Ekrem Imamoglu has announced that his party will establish a news center as an alternative to state-run Anadolu (AA) news agency to publish poll results of the upcoming Istanbul election re-run on June 23, critical daily Cumhuriyet reported at the weekend.
“We have been expanding and activating our already available information center. We will transparently announce the results as soon as each ballot box is opened,” said Imamoglu.
He was Istanbul mayoral candidate from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in the March 31 election Imamoglu took office as Istanbul mayor after narrowly defeating the candidate for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the March 31 local government election.
He was however deposed last week by the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) at the request of the AKP, on the grounds that the assignment of polling clerks was a violation of electoral regulations as they were not public servants. Thus there will be rerun on June 23.
“AA will not be the only source of news for people,” vowed Imamoglu.
Suspicion of election manipulation by AA
On the evening of the local election, there was a neck and neck mayoral race in Istanbul between Imamoglu and former prime minister, the AKP’s Binali Yildirim.
Yildirim was ahead of Imamoglu during the early hours with a narrowing lead that was updated regularly. However AA suddenly stopped reporting data at 23:20, when Imamoglu was only a few thousand votes behind Yildirim and with only a few ballot boxes left uncounted.
Shortly after the interruption of data reporting, Yildirim declared victory. A few hours later at around 01:30 am AA made a statement saying that there had been “no data flow from the field”.
And approximately 13 hours after this statement AA released another communique saying they had suspended the reporting due to a lack of accurate data flow from some ballot boxes and had decided to wait for the YSK results.
AA’s puzzling decision to stop data reports when the opposition candidate started closing in on Yildrim has led to conspiracy theories about election manipulation.
Dissidents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suspect that the close ties between the ruling AKP and AA could have led to manipulation of the election results, even in the past.
AA has a controversial private company structure with 57 percent owned by the Turkish government, also an important business partner of the agency. Critics claim, therefore, that AA has not been impartial during the election campaigns.
CHP invited AA to remove doubts by answering the question of how they received the results of counted ballot boxes, but this still remains unclear, even in previous elections.