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Turkey’s election board orders rerun of Istanbul mayoral vote, angers opposition

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Supporters of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) wave Turkish flags during a gathering to protest the Supreme Election Council (YSK)’s ruling to rerun the mayoral election, in Istanbul, May 6, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

Turkey’s top election body has scrapped the result of Istanbul’s mayoral vote and called for a rerun in response to an appeal filed by the ruling party, sparking outrage from the opposition that narrowly won the post.

The Supreme Election Council (YSK) ruled on Monday seven to four in favor of the appeal by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

It also ordered that a fresh contest must be held in Turkey’s second-largest city on June 23.

Recep Ozel, the AKP’s YSK representative, said the decision was based on unsigned results documents from the March 31 vote and the fact that some ballot box officials were not civil servants.

“With this decision, our demand for re-election has been vindicated,” he said.

Erdogan backs election rerun order

The Turkish president on Tuesday welcomed the order to rerun the Istanbul election as the “best step” for the country.

Speaking at a meeting with his party members in the Turkish parliament, he noted that the Istanbul vote was marred by “organized corruption and irregularities.”

“We see this decision as the best step that will strengthen our will to solve problems within the framework of democracy and law,” the Turkish president said.

He further stressed that if his government did not bring to account the “thieves” who stole the “national will” at the ballot box, “our people will demand an explanation from us.”

Opposition pledges to fight on

However, the winner of the Istanbul mayoral election, Ekrem Imamoglu of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), denounced the YSK’s decision as “treacherous” and vowed to fight on.

Ekrem Imamoglu of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), who was elected mayor after the March 31 elections, addresses his supporters in Istanbul, Turkey, May 6, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

“They are trying to take back the election we won. Maybe you are upset but never lose your hope,” he told thousands of his supporters in central Istanbul following Monday's ruling.

Meanwhile, the CHP announced that it was holding an emergency meeting after the election body’s announcement.

“This system that overrules the will of the people and disregards the law is neither democratic, nor legitimate,” tweeted CHP deputy chair Onursal Adiguzel.

“Going to the polls against the AKP is allowed, but winning is forbidden...This is downright dictatorship,” he added.

The CHP’s assembly also decided on Tuesday that the opposition group would not boycott the June 23 vote rerun.

Municipal elections took place across Turkey on March 31. They marked the first ballot box test for Erdogan since he was re-elected last year under a new system of government, which gives sweeping powers to the president.

Although the AKP succeeded in securing over 51 percent of the vote nationally, it lost the race in Ankara, Izmir and Istanbul — Erdogan’s home city where he had once served as mayor.

Imamoglu won the Istanbul election by just 13,000 votes over AKP candidate and former prime minister, Binali Yildirim, but he was confirmed mayor in April after two weeks of recounts.

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