Turkey elections: Erdogan says Istanbul mayoral vote should be cancelled

An AKP spokesman has demanded a rerun in an election that President Erdogan claims was unfair due to 'organised crime'

Supporters of main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu wave Turkish national flags during a gathering in Istanbul, Turkey, April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for local election results in Istanbul to be annulled over alleged voting irregularities, indicating that there should be a rerun in the closely-fought battle for Turkey's largest city.

Speaking to reporters on his return from a trip to Moscow, Mr Erdogan said his ruling party would continue to use its right to appeal and would track alleged irregularities "until the end". His remarks were published by pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper on Wednesday.

His ruling party also called on the electoral authority to annul Istanbul’s local election results so there can be a rerun. The comments strongly indicate that Mr Erdogan is not willing to accept the loss of the city.

After narrowly losing to the main opposition candidate, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) announced on Sunday that it will apply for a full recount of votes, which was rejected by the electoral board. His party also suffered a surprise setback in the capital, Ankara, where opposition candidates won the majority of the vote.

AKP Deputy Chairman Ali Ihsan Yavuz said on Tuesday that “events” have directly affected the outcome of the election and that the party “demands the renewal of the election in Istanbul”.

The dispute over the mayoral election outcome illustrates Istanbul's importance to the AKP as a stronghold for the party and to Mr Erdogan, who began his political career there.

The city was narrowly won by Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem Imamoglu, who retained his lead even after a partial recount.

In Ankara, CHP candidate Mansur Yavas also retained his victory following a recount of invalid votes and was presented his mayoral certificate on Monday.

While the AKP appears to have won a majority with over 50 per cent of the votes nationwide, the results show a loosening of the president’s control of Turkey’s two most important cities for the first time in 25 years.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday from the presidential plane while returning from a trip to Moscow, Mr Erdogan said that if the High Electoral Board was “sincere”, they would annul the election over what he referred to as suspicious irregularities.

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu addresses his supporters as he is accompanied by his wife Dilek Imamoglu during a gathering in Istanbul, Turkey, April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Echoing earlier speeches, he also said that the margin had been too small to be conclusive and that his party must continue to object to the result.

"If in a city like Istanbul, where there are almost 11 million voters and a difference as small as 30,000 between the votes, and if this number then decreases to 13,000 quickly, then we have to pursue our struggle," said Mr Erdogan, according to pro-government outlet Sabah.

"Even if just one vote is the problem, the [High Election Board] is the one who has the ultimate decision.”

On Monday, he said that his party had associated "organised crime" with the election results.

The political uncertainty comes as the country’s finance minister, Berat Albayrak – Mr Erdogan’s son-in-law – is expected to announce a package of economic reforms on Wednesday to aid Turkey’s flagging economy. Measures to boost Istanbul as an international finance hub are expected to be included.