Istanbul poll result should be annulled - Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has urged electoral authorities to annul the apparent victory of the opposition candidate in the March 31 vote for Istanbul mayor due to what he said were irregularities, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

Initial results show Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu narrowly won control of Turkey’s biggest city and economic powerhouse, seemingly ending the 25-year rule of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its Islamist predecessors, according to Reuters.

Speaking to reporters on his plane while returning from Moscow, Erdoğan said that regulations requiring that ballot box officials be civil servants had not been met in all Istanbul polling places, with regular workers placed in charge in some places.

“Our colleagues have established this. Naturally all this casts doubt. If they take a sincere view, this will lead to annulment,” he said, according to Reuters, which cited a report in the pro-government Sabah newspaper.

Any decision to annul the elections would rest with the Supreme Electoral Board (YSK). On Tuesday, the YSK rejected the AKP’s request for a full recount in Istanbul, after completing partial recounts that maintained İmamoğlu’s slim lead.

“The recounts of 51 ballot boxes in Istanbul has been completed - and it’s given İmamoğlu a further lead of 13 votes,” the BBC’s Turkey correspondent Mark Lowen said in a tweet. “So the invalid ballots didn’t change the result and the partial recount didn’t change the outcome either. Now what?”

A senior AKP official on Tuesday said the party would demand a new vote.

“I find the chances extremely high that the election board will accept A.K.P.’s request to repeat the elections,’’ Soner Çağaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told the New York Times on Tuesday. ‘‘Far from being independent, the election board, like other institutions, has fallen under Erdogan’s power." 

“The loss of control in the city would be a setback for Erdoğan, who has dominated Turkish politics for more than 16 years,” said Reuters.