Turkish opposition seeks cancellation of 2018 elections

May 8, 2019

TEHRAN- Turkey's main opposition party on Wednesday appealed to the country's top electoral body for an annulment of local election results in Istanbul's 39 districts, as well as last year's presidential and parliamentary elections, after the authority annulled its victory in the city's mayoral race and ordered a new vote.

Ruling in favor of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, Turkey's Supreme Electoral Board this week ordered a re-run the March 31 vote narrowly won by opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu. The board based its decision on the fact that some officials overseeing the mayoral election were not civil servants, as required by law, AP reported.

The AKP maintained that such irregularities impacted the outcome of the mayoral race.

In response, the main opposition Republican Peoples' Party, or CHP, submitted a formal request for the cancellation of the Istanbul district elections and last year's general elections, arguing that non-civil servants had also supervised those ballots.

The CHP cannot appeal the electoral board's decision to repeat the mayoral election as it is final.

The AKP won a majority of the Istanbul districts as well as last year's general elections, which gave Erdogan a new mandate with sweeping powers.

"If you say that the local election was stained, then the same is valid for the June 24 (2018) elections," CHP legislator Muharrem Erkek told reporters after submitting the appeal. "Ten thousand people who were not civil servants were on duty at the June 24 elections."

"If you cancel Mr. Imamoglu's mandate, then you have to cancel Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan's mandate too," Erkek said, addressing the electoral board members. He added that there was no evidence to prove that the presence of non-civil servants at the ballot stations had affected the outcome of the voting.

Even though the Supreme Electoral board is not expected to uphold the opposition's appeal, the CHP's move serves to expose what it says is the decision's unfairness.

The CHP, which has questioned the electoral authority's independence, believes that its members succumbed to pressure by Erdogan. The party has accused the president of "stealing" the Istanbul city hall in order to cling to power in Turkey's largest city and commercial hub.

"We don't trust or believe (in the electoral body)," Erkek said. "This is a struggle for democracy. It is not about the CHP or Imamoglu."

The loss of Istanbul - and the capital, Ankara - in Turkey's local elections came as sharp blows to Erdogan.

Erdogan has insisted that rerunning the Istanbul mayoral vote will strengthen democracy by ensuring that the will of the people of Istanbul is truly reflected.

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