Turkey: Strong evidence points to rerun of Istanbul elections

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is getting ready to apply to the Supreme Election Council (YSK) with its legal right to extraordinary objection to re-hold the municipal elections that saw a large number of irregularities and suspicious activities that has led to the recount of irregular votes in some districts and recounts of all votes in some other districts.

“We will submit our application and its supplements to the YSK in a very short time,” AK Party Deputy Chairman Ali İhsan Yavuz said Sunday on his Twitter account.

In the application file, the AK Party will list the reasons that require the elections to be redone based on evidence and documents. Some reasons include invalid or deceased people who allegedly voted in the elections. According to the AK Party, there were significant discrepancies among the tabulated results with wet signatures and stamps that show the first vote record, the final record and the total number of votes submitted to the YSK. Additionally, balloting committees in many districts were not compatible with the requirements of the law; there were empty or unsigned voting records and irregular registrations of voters.

Moreover, out of nearly 9 million voters, 319,540 votes were labeled invalid, mainly in districts considered AK Party strongholds, increasing the party’s suspicions regarding interference in the elections.

The YSK decision period for objections ended on Saturday. Yet, the recounting of votes in Maltepe, Istanbul, has not been completed yet, with only 742 out of 1,089 ballot boxes recounted. Thus, the number of delegations of the YSK was increased from two to 12 to accelerate the process.

The AK Party is expected to make its extraordinary objection to the YSK this week following the completion of the recount in Maltepe. If the YSK decides to re-hold the elections in Istanbul, the elections will be held on June 2 along with three other districts in Artvin’s Yusufeli, Kırıkkales’s Keskin and Denizli’s Honaz.

Büyükçekmece, Istanbul, was another much-debated district where the AK Party insisted on a do-over election since its Büyükçekmece district organization previously applied to the local election board alleging that 21,000 fake voters had been registered in the district during the process to update voters lists in the run-up to the elections.

A district registry office personnel and another person, a namesake and relative of the Büyükçekmece’s longtime mayor Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Hasan Akgün, had been arrested for irregularly registering voters by fabricating documents on behalf of Akgün. A judicial investigation launched by the Büyükçekmece Public Prosecutor’s Office is ongoing, in addition to an administrative inquiry by the district. In relation to the issue, the former mayor of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mevlüt Uysal made a statement saying: “In the last eight months since the June 24 presidential elections, 11,954 voters have been dropped from the voter records in Büyükçekmece, and 3,092 of those do not have any record in any place. What does that mean? It is like their citizenship just disappeared. Those who vote for the AK Party have been erased from the list. Turkey has not seen such an organized operation in its history.”

The AK Party announced on last Tuesday that it would seek to use the right to make an extraordinary objection and demand a repeat of the election. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan raised concerns about “organized interference” in the Istanbul elections earlier Monday. “We, as a political party, have detected organized crime and some organized activities,” Erdoğan told reporters ahead of his departure from Istanbul for Moscow. On election night, the AK Party candidate Binali Yıldırım declared victory as he was leading in the polls by a narrow margin, only to be followed by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu announcement of victory. The candidates’ early victory statements were followed by YSK Chairman Sadi Güven’s announcement on April 1, saying İmamoğlu led the polls by almost 25,000 votes according to unofficial results. The provisional election results, however, were followed by the objection process, which saw numerous irregularities and discrepancies between ballot result reports and counting tabulations.

As the recounting process continues in Istanbul, 97 percent of the votes in the appealed ballot boxes have been counted. The last results show that İmamoğlu leads by 13,996 votes over AK Party candidate Yıldırım.