Recounts in progress in 19 Istanbul districts
Both the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) are relentlessly claiming victories in Istanbul, Turkey’s biggest province, in the local elections, as the country’s election watchdog accepted an appeal made by the AKP demanding votes deemed invalid in 19 of Istanbul’s districts are recounted after the board said the CHP’s candidate had the lead.
District electoral councils in Küçükçekmece, Beyoğlu, Başakşehir, Maltepe, Büyükçekmece, Çekmeköy, Eyüp, Fatih, Tuzla, Sarıyer, Ataşehir, Beykoz, Şile, Bayrampaşa and Ümraniye were told to recount votes that were deemed invalid, along with a recount of all votes — valid and invalid — in Çatalca, Silivri and Kartal districts, while the Daily News went to print on April 3, after the AKP’s appeal.
A vote is considered invalid when voters stamp on multiple parties on a ballot paper, either accidentally or deliberately.
The CHP’s mayoral candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu has called on the Supreme Election Board (YSK) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on April 3 to move on from the decision and give him the mandate to officially run as mayor of Istanbul. His party has said similar appeals made by opposition parties were never accepted by the YSK in previous elections.
He also called on the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to help with the process. “I am calling on Devlet Bahçeli to contribute. He said an election could be won even on a single vote. He should contribute to this process. Bahçeli should tell these people who have an internal feud and individual concerns,” he stated.
The mayoral hopeful claimed the senior members of the AKP were in an internal feud over their failure in the local elections. “Do not damage Turkey’s reputation like this. Turkey will be harmed,” he said, while adding that the world was watching Turkey post-election.
Initial results announced by the YSK have shown that İmamoğlu had the lead over his rival Binali Yıldırım, gaining a narrow win.
Turkey’s election watchdog held a midnight meeting April 2-3 over the application by the AKP. The YSK decided early April 3 that some votes will be reassessed in seven districts of Istanbul following the March 31 local elections.
The board unanimously abolished a decision of Istanbul Provincial Election Board to stop the recounting of invalid votes in these districts linked to Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.
The YSK chair said they decided on the continuation of the recounting process in some districts and added that the re-voting will be conducted for votes registered as invalid.
Reassessing invalid votes is not an unprecedented process, as such procedures were done in previous elections as well, YSK head Sadi Güven said on April 3.
“The recounting process is not only evaluated in terms of the objecting party,” Güven said, adding that the evaluation of invalid ballots includes all parties in accordance with article 298 of Turkey’s election law and YSK rules.
AKP Istanbul provincial head Bayram Şenocak said the party had found “significant discrepancies” in the poll results.
The AKP criticized İmamoğlu for declaring himself as the mayor of Istanbul without receiving an official mandate. AKP deputy chair Ali İhsan Yavuz claimed the difference of votes between the two candidates had declined from 29,000 to 20,000 after a re-counting.
AKP spokesperson Mahir Ünal, meanwhile, asked why İmamoğlu was uncomfortable with the ongoing legal process. “On what basis would he want to declare himself as chair and demand to stop this [recounting] process?” he said on Twitter.