Election board set to give final verdict on Istanbul polls
The Supreme Election Board (YSK) is expected to conclude its weeks-long inquiry into the Istanbul elections and announce its final verdict on May 6 or May 7 amid growing tension between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
“The YSK has investigated our appeal of the results of the Istanbul elections. I assume it will render a verdict by tomorrow. We are waiting for the decision,” Binali Yıldırım, the AKP’s nominee for Istanbul, told reporters early May 5.
Yıldırım lost against the CHP’s Ekrem İmamoğlu by a small margin in the March 31 local elections. The AKP and its main ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), had appealed to annul and re-run the Istanbul polls due to what they call alleged irregularities. The appeal was based on allegations that there were tens of thousands of ineligible voters who cast votes in the elections and that scores of polling station officials were appointed against regulations.
“From the very beginning, we keep saying that the only institution [about polls] is the YSK. Everybody will have to accept its decision,” Yıldırım said.
The YSK is composed of 11 senior judges and issues its verdicts by the majority of votes. The decisions of the YSK are final and cannot be taken to a higher court. Initial results by the YSK have shown that the CHP’s İmamoğlu received 4,169,765 votes while Yıldırım garnered 4,156,036 votes. The difference between the two contenders is 13,729.
İmamoğlu was granted credentials as Istanbul mayor on April 17.
With all eyes on the YSK, tension between the ruling and opposition parties has escalated over the weekend after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he favors a re-run of a mayoral election in Istanbul.
“There is controversy here, it’s clear. There is an irregularity here, that’s clear too. Let’s go to the people and see what they say and whatever the outcome is, we will accept it,” Erdoğan told a group of Turkish businesspeople in Istanbul.
“My citizens tell me this: ‘My president, this election should be done again’,” Erdoğan said at the opening ceremony of the new headquarters for the Independent Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (MÜSİAD).
“Correcting the corruption in the elections would vindicate the YSK and relieve the hearts of the Turkish people,” said Erdoğan, adding, “All our efforts are towards giving the value of the nation’s vote back to the nation.”
Bahçeli echoes Erdoğan
Echoing Erdoğan, MHP chair Devlet Bahçeli said that his party was in favor for a re-run of the elections in Istanbul.
“We, as the MHP, are in favor of the renewal of the elections. We can’t be silent to attempts to smear our democracy and to shadow the national will,” Bahçeli said in a written statement on May 4.
Bahçeli also said that he will establish his headquarters in Istanbul and will campaign if the YSK decides to renew the elections.
CHP slams Erdoğan
CHP spokesman Faik Öztrak responded to Erdoğan’s allegations that the Istanbul polls were corrupt at a press conference late May 4.
“There is neither controversy nor a plot. It’s about [the AKP’s] inability to digest [the results]. They have started to bring a cloud of suspicion on the YSK. Leave the YSK alone,” Öztrak said, describing Erdoğan’s latest intervention as an imposition of a political pressure on the election watchdog.
Recalling that it was the same YSK that regulated the June 24 presidential elections in 2018 and constitutional referendum in 2017, Öztrak stressed, “Well, no problems were voiced about those elections, but there is a problem in the Istanbul elections, the elections in which they lost against Ekrem İmamoğlu.”
The CHP spokesman said it was time for the AKP to accept the defeat and focus on the real problems of the people.
In a statement May 5, Vice President Fuat Oktay denied the CHP’s accusations over the AKP’s pressure on the YSK. “If there is pressure, it’s imposed by the opposition on the YSK. Pressure from the government or using state means to this end are out of question,” Oktay said.