Election watchdog to honor citizens’ votes for Istanbul

Election watchdog to honor citizens’ votes for Istanbul

The local elections are over, with the results having been finalized in almost all constituencies, except for Istanbul. Initial results have shown that the Nation Alliance’s candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu was ahead of the People Alliance’s Binali Yıldırım with a minor difference, ending a 25-year rule of Turkey’s largest city by AKP mayors.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has appealed to the district electoral boards and then to Istanbul provincial electoral board for the recount of invalid votes in more than a dozen districts and of all votes in three districts of Istanbul.

As a result of the vote recount, the difference between İmamoğlu and Yıldırım has decreased to below 20,000, with the latter telling journalists on April 5 that the gap is narrowing as more votes are being recounted.

İmamoğlu, however, said the difference was 18,742 and the recount of invalid votes has not created a significant difference on the general outcome of the polls. Criticizing the AKP’s efforts of recounting all the votes in Istanbul as an abuse of the appeal process, İmamoğlu said: “It was you who was responsible of taking all the measures for safe polls. ‘The safest system is in Turkey’ was what you had said. You also said that more than a million people were employed on election day. So where are we heading to? Is it ‘Let’s count votes until İmamoğlu loses? It’s tragicomic.”

Yıldırım, for his part, challenged İmamoğlu for a recount of votes if he is certain over his victory in Istanbul while calling on everyone to respect the YSK’s work. 

After a few days of pause, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan broke his silence on April 5 and criticized the opposition for not showing patience so that the YSK can fulfill its job. He also reiterated that thanks to the
recounted votes, the People’s Alliance nationwide vote has increased to 53.3 percent, with more than half of all municipals belonging to them.

Erdoğan also implied that neither İmamoğlu in Istanbul nor Mansur Yavaş in Ankara will be able to freely govern their respective cities as the majority of the municipal assemblies
in these two cities have been obtained by the ruling party in the elections.

In general terms, the government underlines that it’s using its right to appeal while the opposition recalls that its applications for a recount of votes in Ankara in 2014 local elections were rejected due to lack of enough evidence and therefore cites major double-standards.

İmamoğlu asked why appeal demands in Balıkesir and Muş provinces were rejected while each and every request by the AKP on Istanbul polls has been confirmed. Both provinces have observed a very narrow race to the advantage of the AKP, but the opposition’s appeals have not been recognized, he stated. He also added that the CHP was not against the appeal process, but was criticizing the imposition of double-standards for the opposition parties.

It’s believed that the AKP will apply to the YSK for a recount of all votes cast in Istanbul in order not to leave the slightest doubts over the results.

The March 31 local elections have proven that Turkey’s elections are free and competitive although it can’t be argued that it’s fair. Appeal over poll results
is a globally approved right and everybody needs to be respectful of the legal processes and
its outcomes.

The appeal process should be transparent and implemented in light of serious and sufficient evidence. The YSK must prove its independence and impartiality by honoring each and every citizen’s vote.

Serkan Demirtaş, Turkey elections 2019, Supreme Election Board