Turkey's opposition seeks cancellation of 2018 elections

People walk on Galata Bridge over the Golden Horn in Istanbul, decorated with electoral posters of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party's Istanbul mayoral candidate Binali Yildirim, Tuesday, May 7, 2019. Ruling in favor of Erdogan's governing party, Turkey's top electoral body on Monday annulled the results of the March 31 vote in Istanbul which the opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu narrowly won and scheduled a re-run for June 23.Erdogan insisted Tuesday that the repeat of the mayoral race in Istanbul will strengthen democracy and lift the shadow that was cast over the vote.(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey's main opposition party on Wednesday appealed to the country's top electoral body to annul local election results in Istanbul's 39 districts, as well as last year's presidential and parliamentary results, after the authority annulled the opposition's victory in Istanbul's mayoral race and ordered a new vote.

Ruling in favor of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), Turkey's Supreme Electoral Board this week ordered a re-run of the March 31 vote on Istanbul's next mayor, which was narrowly won by opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu. The board based its decision on the fact that some officials overseeing the mayoral election were not civil servants, as required by law.

The ruling party claimed that such irregularities affected the outcome of the race.

In response, the main opposition Republican Peoples' Party, or CHP, submitted a formal request for the cancellation of the Istanbul district elections and last year's general elections, arguing that non-civil servants had also supervised those ballots.

CHP cannot appeal the electoral board's decision to repeat Istanbul's mayoral election, as that is final.

AKP won a majority of the Istanbul districts as well as last year's general elections, which gave Erdogan a new mandate with sweeping powers.

"If you say that the local election was stained, then the same is valid for the June 24 (2018) elections," CHP legislator Muharrem Erkek told reporters after submitting the appeal. "Ten thousand people who were not civil servants were on duty for the June 24 election."

"If you cancel Mr. Imamoglu's mandate, then you have to cancel Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan's mandate too," Erkek said, addressing the electoral board members.

He added there was no evidence proving that the presence of non-civil servants at the ballot stations had affected the outcome of the Istanbul vote.

Even though the Supreme Electoral board is not expected to uphold the opposition's appeal, CHP sought to expose what it says is the decision's unfairness.

CHP, which has questioned the electoral authority's independence, believes that the board's members had succumbed to pressure by Erdogan. The party has accused the president of "stealing" Istanbul city hall in order to cling to power in Turkey's largest city and commercial hub.

"We don't trust or believe (in the electoral body)," Erkek said. "This is a struggle for democracy. It is not about CHP or Imamoglu."

The electoral authority issued a statement on Wednesday saying it would continue working "without being affected by the campaigns of pressure, intimidation, insult and threats" directed against it.

The loss of Istanbul — and the capital, Ankara — in Turkey's local elections came as sharp blows to Erdogan.

Erdogan says rerunning the Istanbul mayoral vote will strengthen democracy in Turkey by ensuring that the will of the people of Istanbul is truly reflected.

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