Turkey’s local elections rapidly turning farcical - analyst

As Turkey is beginning of its third week post March 31 local elections, the official vote count, which is still not complete, is well on its way to becoming a travesty, wrote former Turkish Foreign Minister and Ahval contributor Yaşar Yakış in the Arab News on Sunday.

According to unconfirmed results available so far on the polls, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is leading in the Istanbul elections despite the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) doing everything in its power to reverse that trend, Yakış wrote.

While AKP, along with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) won more than half of the votes in the local elections, Yakış wrote, "their alliance may not necessarily have a majority in all metropolitan municipal councils as each district contributes one fifth of its municipal council members to the metropolitan council.’’

The CHP, which has came out on top in most of the bigger districts, is leading in the Istanbul elections.

On the day of the elections, AKP İstanbul mayoral candidate Binali Yıldırım had a considerable lead, which CHP’s Ekrem İmamoğlu began to narrow.

Shortly before the clock hit midnight in İstanbul, when 98.8 percent of the Istanbul votes had been counted, the broadcasting of the city’s results was interrupted, Yakış recalled, with no explanation from the pro-government media.

In the second week after the polls, recounting of invalid votes had become the primary issue, delaying the counting of valid votes for more than 14 days after the elections.

The country’s Supreme Election Council (YSK) disregarded CHP’s proposal of setting up additional teams to speed up the count.

 And now, into the third week after the polls, we still don’t have the official results.

While the ruling AKP has filed new claims of irregularities in Istanbul’s Büyükçekmece district, Yakış noted such a problem, if indeed true, should have been sorted out during the verification period prior to the polls, not after it turned out that the AKP was trailing behind in that district.

Another issue is that certain mayors who won their respective local elections have been barred from resuming their posts on the grounds that they had been expelled  from public service beforehand by decrees implemented after the July 2016 coup attempt. Their posts were filled by candidates who received the second-highest number of votes.

This is another problem that should have covered by the YSK beforehand, Yakış stressed, by such candidates being prevented from standing in the first place.

Following the local polls, the AKP’s request for a recount in a constituency was granted by the YSK without any demand for evidence of misconduct or mistakes, despite a similar request by Mansur Yavas, who ran for mayor of Ankara in 2014, being denied on lack of factual evidence presented.

As CHP’s İmamoğlu remains in the lead by around 14,000 votes, the AKP is unsure whether it should demand a brand new election either in Istanbul or nationwide, Yakış wrote.

Yakış highlighted conspiracy theories saying that the AKP may be trying to bide time before handing over the Istanbul metropolitan municipality to the CHP in order to clear out the municipal coffers and disburse funds to the private corporations in business with the municipality.

Another report alleges that the AKP is trying to keep the election council distracted with numerous recounts while it destroys incriminating documents, he said.

Regardless of the reasoning, "Turkey and its people deserve better than this dark comedy,’’ Yakış concluded.