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News > Turkey

Turkish Opposition Demands Mandate as 8 Cities Undergo Recount

  • Ekrem Imamoglu, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate for mayor of Istanbul, visits Anitkabir in Ankara, Turkey, April 2, 2019.

    Ekrem Imamoglu, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate for mayor of Istanbul, visits Anitkabir in Ankara, Turkey, April 2, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 April 2019

"Three or four people acting like children who had their toys taken away should not damage this country's reputation," CHP Candidate Ekrem Imamoglu said.

Turkey's main opposition candidate in Istanbul urged the High Election Board (YSK) Wednesday to confirm him as the elected mayor after the board ruled in favor of a partial recount of votes in eight of 39 city districts.

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Initial results from Sunday's mayoral elections showed the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) had narrowly won control of Turkey's two biggest cities, Istanbul and Ankara, in a shock upset for President Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

If those results are confirmed in the coming days, the CHP will gain control of municipal budgets with an estimated total value of 32.6 billion liras (US$5.8 billion) for 2019 in Istanbul, Turkey's commercial hub, and the capital Ankara.

However, the AKP submitted objections to election results in all districts of Istanbul and Ankara, saying the results had been impacted by invalid votes and voting irregularities.

In Istanbul, CHP candidate Ekrem Imamoglu, and his AKP rival, ex-Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, both said Monday that Imamoglu was about 25,000 votes ahead, a relatively slim margin in a city of around 15 million people.

YSK Chairman Sadi Guven said Wednesday it had ruled that the recount of what had been marked as invalid votes should go ahead in eight Istanbul districts, some of them AKP strongholds.

Imamoglu called on the YSK to "do its job" and name him mayor, accusing the AKP of disrespecting the people of Istanbul.

"We want justice. We demand our mandate from the YSK, which has given the numbers, as the elected mayor of this city... The world is watching us, the world is watching this city's elections," he told reporters.

"Three or four people acting like children who had their toys taken away should not damage this country's reputation through their own internal fights."

AKP Deputy Chairman Ali Ihsan Yavuz said his party was not doing anything illegal and added that the vote difference between Imamoglu and Yildirim had fallen to below 20,000 votes.

"We believe the reality will emerge tonight and we will all accept the results. Both Ekrem Imamoglu and the AK Party will have to accept the outcome," Yavuz said.

Pro-government newspapers Wednesday said there had been a conspiracy against Turkey in the local elections, with the Star newspaper likening this to an attempted military coup in 2016 and nationwide protests in 2013.

Yeni Safak newspaper editor Ibrahim Karagul called for a second vote after what he termed a "coup via elections," adding without providing evidence that supporters of the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen - blamed by Ankara for the 2016 coup attempt - were involved.

Ahead of the elections, the CHP had formed an electoral alliance with the Iyi (Good) Party to rival that of the AKP and their far-right nationalist MHP partners. In Ankara, opposition candidate Mansur Yavas received 50.9 percent of votes on Sunday, nearly 4 percentage points ahead of his AKP rival.

In some 100 rallies during his election campaign, Erdogan had described the opposition alliance as terrorist supporters linked to Gulen's network and Kurdish militants.

Erdogan's political success has rested on years of stellar economic growth in Turkey, but a recession that has brought surging inflation and unemployment and a plunging lira have taken their toll on the president's popularity which has its roots in a U.S. economic pressure led by the Trump administration, according to Erdogan. 

While Erdogan's ruling alliance won a nationwide majority of just under 52 percent of all votes, losing Ankara and Istanbul, the city where the president started his political life as its mayor, would significantly impact his dominance.

"It is by controlling the municipality that you keep your support happy because it is at the municipal level that you give away lots of things to your core base," Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of Teneo political risk advisers, told Reuters.

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The uncertainty generated by the local elections has added to volatility in the Turkish lira, which sold off sharply nearly two weeks ago, reflecting waning confidence among both Turks and international investors.

Amid tense diplomatic relations between Ankara and Washington in recent years, the U.S. State Department urged Ankara to respect the "legitimate election results." Ankara responded by warning against foreign interference.

"We urge all parties, including foreign governments, to respect the legal process and refrain from taking any steps that may be construed as meddling in Turkey's internal affairs," Fahrettin Altun, Turkey's presidential communications director, said on Twitter.

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