İmamoğlu blasts ruling party and state news agency during Ankara visit

Ekrem İmamoğlu, the opposition mayoral candidate for Istanbul who unofficial results place as the winner of last Sunday’s race, has raised concerns that the ruling party may be disputing the results in order to buy time to dispose of evidence of impropriety.

After a long delay, the Supreme Electoral Council announced on Monday that the preliminary count showed the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate had beaten his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) rival, Binali Yıldırım, by over 20,000 votes.

The AKP, which had already declared Yıldırım’s victory before the count was finished on Sunday night, has said there were a large number of inconsistencies in the vote count and is appealing the result.

“We’ve been hearing reports from the Metropolitan Municipality for the past two days about people smuggling out documents and trying to wipe their offices clean … I want to come and take measures. I will make an account of the last penny of the people of Istanbul’s money,” İmamoğlu said.

The CHP mayor also hit back at the state-run Anadolu Agency on Tuesday election night reporting that he called “manipulation”.

Anadolu for unexplained reasons stopped uploading data of the vote tally as İmamoğlu’s total votes closed in on Yıldırım’s on Sunday night, leaving viewers on tenterhooks until the following day.

When Supreme Electoral Council head Sadi Güven announced İmamoğlu’s lead on Monday, he denied that Anadolu had received data from his council, saying he did not known what it had based its results on.

İmamoğlu drew attention to the speed Anadolu had updated results for most of the night, with the ruling party’s candidates given an early lead on the agency’s count.

However, he said it was unclear how the agency had received its figures, since he said its officials had not been seen at polling stations and had not contacted the CHP to ask for its count. “I wonder if they were cooperating with the AKP?” he said.

İmamoğlu went on to say Anadolu was “finished” and could no longer be trusted to convey election results after its display on Sunday.

The state news agency stopped updating its results after Yıldırım declared victory, but İmamoğlu repeatedly rejected the ruling party’s claim until the electoral council shared its figures the next morning.

“I suppose they (Anadolu Agency) are embarrassed right now. But they’re not embarrassed that they were unable to make news accurately and in good time, they’re embarrassed because they couldn’t secure victory for the candidate they wanted. This is a real shame,” İmamoğlu said.

The ruling party has not given up its pursuit of the mayor’s seat in Istanbul, by far Turkey’s most populous and lucrative city. On Tuesday, AKP deputy leader Ali İhsan Yavuz called the election in Istanbul “one of the biggest blemishes on the history of Turkish democracy”. The AKP has demanded that votes discounted during the first count are re-examined in seven districts of Istanbul.

İmamoğlu condemned the “poison of partisanship” in evidence among officials he said were prepared to adopt “any means necessary” to win.

The CHP mayor’s statements came during a trip to Ankara, during which he visited the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey and founding leader of the CHP.

İmamoğlu laid a wreath at the mausoleum in a ceremony that proved controversial after he signed his name in the book, followed by the title “Mayor of Istanbul”.

The Ministry of Defence later released a statement saying the ceremony had been conducted inappropriately.