Turkish opposition's İmamoğlu officially declared mayor of Istanbul

Updated with İmamoğlu's speech

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul mayoral candidate, Ekrem İmamoğlu on Wednesday received the certificate he needs to take office, making him the mayor of Istanbul 17 days after the local elections

İmamoğlu received his certificate at the Çağlayan courthouse before heading to the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality headquarters in Fatih district for the official ceremony.

İmamoğlu told his supporters gathered at the headquarters that he would organise a rally this weekend to explain the election process to Istanbul’s residents.

“I took this certificate on behalf of our 16 million people,” the CHP mayor said. “We never gave up on the feeling of solidarity and unity created by the love of the people living in this city.”

“The doors of the Istanbul Metropolitan policy are open to all from now onwards,” he said.

The new Istanbul mayor thanked everyone for their patience over the past 17 days and said he would be working hard to push science and arts programmes to the fore in the city.

Imamoğu vowed inclusion, transparency and “the most democratic mayorship in the world,” before stressing that he was elected by the millions of Istanbul residents and will know how to leave when the city decides his time is up. 

The new Istanbul mayor stressed that the CHP had not given up on the values of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish republic.  

‘’Istanbul is proud of you,’’ the crowds gathered at the municipality headquarters chanted.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its far-right allies have disputed the results and demanded a partial recount and a rerun of the March 31 polls in Istanbul, Turkey’s biggest city and financial hub. It is still possible a rerun of the vote could be held.

The AKP applied to the Supreme Election Council (YSK) on Tuesday for the annulment of the Istanbul mayoral vote through an extraordinary appeal procedure citing fraud at the ballot boxes.

According to the extraordinary appeal procedure, the provincial election council was required to first give İmamoğlu his certificate of election. But the AKP also requested for the YSK to postpone İmamoğlu’s authorisation until it makes a decision on the annulment of the Istanbul vote.

It remains unclear whether the AKP appeal for a rerun will be accepted.

İmamoğlu in his speech called on the YSK to end the uncertainty over Istanbul votes as soon as possible. 

The AKP said more than 300,000 votes in Istanbul had become questionable as a result of irregularities in electoral records and voting procedures, BBC Turkish reported.

Turkey’s ruling party said its findings “showed that all mistakes and irregularities happened not erroneously or individually, but intentionally and in an organised way”. 

In its 44-page petition, the AKP said that the votes of more than 1 million people had been affected by mistakes in vote counts and vote count documentation. 

The petition also says that such irregularities gave the CHP an advantage of 35,000 votes and therefore elections should be annulled as the difference of votes between leading candidates was more than 28,000 before the partial recount and around 13,000 afterwards.

The ruling party said some 19,350 votes were cast unlawfully by people not eligible to vote, such as prison inmates. According to the AKP, 21,782 mentally ill people also cast their votes.

Due to changes in election law, the head of boards overseeing the ballot boxes have to be public servants. The AKP said 6,539 out of 31,280 people who had worked as heads of ballot box boards had not been eligible for this position. 

“I am not saying the CHP, I am not blaming the CHP here,” AKP deputy chairman Ali İhsan Yavuz said in a television interview. The reason for the appeal, he said, was to clean the stains made on Turkish democracy.

Yavuz also said that he expected several investigations to be launched as a result of evidence the AKP had submitted.

Meanwhile, the Turkish lira climbed to 5.7175 against the dollar on Wednesday following the announcement that İmamoğlu would head to the courthouse to receive his mandate, Reuters news agency reported.