No merit in Istanbul election decision says Imamoglu

Ekrem Imamoglu, the man who won Istanbul’s mayoral election and was then forced to vacate office, has slammed an explanation by Turkey’s top electoral authority as having no merit. 

Imamoglu’s reaction, as reported by the T24 news portal, followed the release of a 250-page on Wednesday, in which Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) attempted to justify its controversial May 6 ruling to cancel the results of the March 31 mayoral election in Istanbul and stage new mayoral election on June 23.

Imamoglu, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate who won the hotly contested mayoral race and then was forced to vacate office less than a month after taking up the position, said the YSK’s “reasoned decision” should be voided.

“A mountain gave birth to a mouse. Two-hundred-and-fifty pages mean nothing to me. This, what we call the reasoned decision, is actually an unreasoned decision. There is zero [legal] justification here,” Imamoglu said on Wednesday.

The YSK members issued the 250-page report to explain the reasons for the ruling, for which they have been harshly criticized by the opposition, who have accused them of becoming a tool for the government.

The controversial ruling came after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had submitted an extraordinary objection to the YSK over the Istanbul mayoral election results.

One of the two main justifications for annulling the election outcome, as stated by council members, was the fact that 754 balloting committee chairmen were not government officials as is required by the law.

“There are seven times more public officials in Istanbul than those needed as balloting committee chairmen. This being the case, the district election boards’ selection of balloting committee chairmen out of the lists provided by the administrative chief annihilated the credibility of the election,” YSK said.

Another reason for the decision was that no vote-counting sheets were prepared in 108 ballot boxes.

“The fact that tally-sheets were not prepared in 108 ballot boxes seriously harms the electoral safety of those ballot boxes,” the council also stated in the report.

Of the 11 YSK judges, the four who did not vote for the Istanbul election re-run stressed that the case of the 108 ballot boxes had not been raised by the council when they were preparing the reasoned decision.

“The data from the ballot boxes, which were missing tally-sheets, was discovered to have been uploaded to the electronic count without fault,” indicated the YSK president Said Guven, one of the dissenting judges.

Guven also stated that AKP members had been on duty at 750 of the 754 ballot boxes presided over by chairmen disqualified for not being public officials.

Imamoglu, who will run again as the CHP’s candidate on June 23, commented on Wednesday on the YSK’s explanation during a program on Global Haber news television channel.

Referring to the claims of his rival from the ruling AKP, Binali Yildirim, that his votes in Istanbul mayoral polls were stolen, Imamoglu indicated that those remarks are slanderous.

Underlining that the YSK has not mentioned any vote-stealing in the report, he stated: “They [AKP officials] should get on TV and apologize to the 16 million people [of Istanbul] because of their slander.”

When Yildirim was asked on May 12 about the reason as to why the election results were annulled, he answered: “That’s very simple. Because they [CHP] stole it [the elections].”

AKP’s reasons for demanding to cancel the results, which were stated in its extraordinary objection, included the claim voiced by Yildirim.

The YSK did not accept the allegation as a legal justification for the rerun.

When asked on Wednesday about YSK’s rejection to his claims, Yıldırım said: “They [YSK] would not quote remarks of one of the candidates and say that the votes were ‘stolen’. What we used when describing that issue was colloquial language.”

Yildirim pointed out that the initial vote difference between him and Imamoglu dropped after recounts held in a number of districts in Istanbul on AKP’s demand.

“If the votes hadn’t been stolen, how else the vote difference that was 29,400 decreased to 13,700? We should consider this,” he insisted.

Imamoglu also criticized YSK for not being completely transparent about their reasons for the rerun ruling.

“People who slaughtered democracy in YSK, why don’t you clarify our minds about the votes? How many votes are there that could affect the outcome? Did I receive an extra 50,000 votes in those [problematic] ballot boxes?” he questioned.

Imamoglu added that the justified decision of YSK was in his opinion void and insignificant.

CHP Spokesperson Faik Oztrak called the reasoned decision “a disgrace to democracy” on Wednesday.

“The one who is responsible [for this disgrace] is, unfortunately, in the [presidential] palace,’’ he added, referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

CHP Deputy Group Chair Ozgur Ozel also highlighted in a tweet: “While the reasoned decision in the report is composed of 12 pages, there are 38-page-long dissenting opinions [of the four judges].”

 “Voters’ will and the election results are usurped by the YSK in Istanbul. There’s no need for further explanation,” emphasized Sezgin Tanrikulu, a lawmaker from the CHP and a human rights lawyer.

Being the largest city and business hub of Turkey, Istanbul is of great importance to the AKP government, whose officials, including Erdogan, have held the mayor’s seat in the city for the past 25 years.

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