Erdogan’s party requests new election in Istanbul
ISTANBUL – The party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey applied to the country’s election commission Tuesday for a rerun of the Istanbul mayor’s race, after two weeks of appeals and recounting of ballots still showed the opposition candidate ahead.
The application is seen as a lastditch attempt by the governing party to avoid losing control of Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and financial center. A defeat in Istanbul would deal a significant blow to Erdogan, who has been in power for 18 years.
The 15 million residents of Istanbul have been awaiting a result in the closely run mayoral race between a former prime minister and close ally of Erdogan, Binali Yildirim, and the opposition Republican People’s Party’s candidate, Ekrem Imamoglu.
Imamoglu remained in the lead by about 13,000 votes with the recounting and inspection of invalid ballots down to a final district in the opposition-held suburb of Maltepe. The count is expected to be completed today, and barring any further developments, Imamoglu looked likely to be confirmed as the new mayor.
But the appeal by Erdogan’s party, Justice and Development, may forestall that. After submitting the application for a do-over, Ali Ihsan Yavuz, the party’s deputy leader, told reporters outside election headquarters in the capital, Ankara, that 85% of the mistakes detected in the voting were against his party. He said the irregularities included 16,000 votes for Justice and Development having been erroneously recorded for other parties.
“There is complete organized irregularity and complete election corruption,” Yavuz said. “It shows us the will of the nation was snatched away.”
Officials from Justice and Development have been saying for several days that as a final resort they would lodge an “extraordinary application” for a rerun of the race. A decision from the election council could come within days, and a new vote would be held June 2 if the governing party’s application were accepted, officials have said.