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Jan 21 2019

Opposition parties alarmed by irregularities as Turkey heads into local elections

Turkey’s opposition parties are crying foul after the emergence of a series of irregularities, such as many first-time voters over 100 years old and more than 1,000 voters registered at a single apartment, as the country prepares for local elections, BBC reported.

A voter aged 165 was among the oddities that sparked outrage as the country prepares for local elections on March 31, in which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) could face its toughest political challenge in years as the country struggles to recover from the 2018 currency crisis.  

With the economic stagnation in recent months, and the value of the lira significantly lower than it was a year ago, analysts are speculating that the dominant AKP could lose several key cities, including the capital, Ankara, BBC said. 

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) allege that the unusual voter records they have found are from areas where Erdoğan’s AKP lost by a small number of votes in previous polls.

There are more than 6,000 registered voters over 100 years old, many of which are supposedly older than the oldest documented living person, currently 116, CHP said.

One registered voter is 165-year-old Ayse Ekici, allegedly born in 1854, at the time of the Ottoman empire, and registered to vote for the first time his year, according to the opposition party.

A 149-year-old voter, known only as Zulfu, is also registered, along with Ayse, said to be 148 years old.

Widespread examples of large numbers of people registered at a single address, such as 1000 people at a single apartment,  is another cause for concern for opposition parties.

Many voters are apparently registered at empty buildings, construction sites, or on the fifth floor of a four-storey building in one case in Istanbul, BBC said.

One central Turkish district in Çankırı saw its registered voters grow by 95 percent in six months, leading opposition parties to ask the country's electoral board to investigate the discoveries.

The AKP maintains this is an attempt by the opposition to hurt the ruling party.

"The opposition parties are trying to create the perception that we are organising this,"BBC quoted AKP party member and election official Recep Özel as saying. "We are the biggest victims here."

CHP’s Hadimi Yakupoğlu however, said that faked registrations were an attempt to manipulate the elections.