AKP veterans, opposition criticise Istanbul vote re-run

Former heavyweights of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party say the decision to repeat vote in Istanbul will damage Turkey's reputation.

ANKARA - Two former heavyweights of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party have criticised a decision to re-run the Istanbul mayoral election, expressing concern the decision would damage the state's reputation.

They have added their voices to a chorus of criticism both domestic and abroad.

Former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday said the decision to annul the results of the March 31 election, which was won by the main opposition, "caused damage to one of our fundamental values".

"The biggest loss for political movements is not losing elections but the loss of moral superiority and social conscience," he wrote on Twitter.

After weeks of appeals by the AKP, Turkey's High Election Board (YSK) ruled on Monday for a re-run of the Istanbul mayoral election, which was dramatically won by the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem Imamoglu with a razor-thin margin.

It was the first time in 25 years that the AKP or its Islamist predecessors had failed to win control of Istanbul, Turkey's largest city with a budget of close to $4 billion. Erdogan himself launched his political career as Istanbul mayor.

Abdullah Gul, former president and co-founder of the AKP, also criticised the ruling, saying it showed the party had not "made any headway" since past constitutional spats.

Both men have fallen out with Erdogan since their time in office and there have been persistent rumours over the years that they may set up their own parties.

Gul, who has lately kept his distance from daily politics, compared the situation to a 2007 ruling by the country's top court that prevented him from becoming president without a two-thirds majority in parliament.

"What I felt in 2007... that is what I felt yesterday when another high court, the Supreme Electoral Council, took its decision. It is a pity that we have not made any headway," he tweeted.

Before last year's presidential and general elections there was speculation that Gul would run against Erdogan, but he never did.

'Same laws, same regulations'

Turkey's main opposition party said on Wednesday it had formally requested the annulment of Erdogan's mandate because the same flaws his AK Party alleged in the city's March 31 mayoral vote occurred in last year's national elections.

The CHP also said votes for Istanbul officials and councils, submitted in the same envelopes as the mayoral election, should also be cancelled if the mayoral vote is re-run. Erdogan's party won a majority in the councils.

In its ruling, the YSK cited irregularities in the appointment of polling station officials in Istanbul. Erdogan's party said the fact that individuals who were not public servants were appointed to the stations amounted to organised crime.

The YSK left the results for district administrators, municipal councils and local officials unchanged, a decision which the CHP said was nonsense because all four votes were cast in the same envelopes and counted by the same polling officials.

"If you're revoking Ekrem Imamoglu's mandate ... then you must also annul President Erdogan's mandate because the same laws, same regulations, same applications, same polling stations and conditions were present in both elections," CHP Deputy Chairman Muharrem Erkek told reporters.

Erdogan said on Tuesday that the elections were marred by "organised irregularity" and added that the decision was an important step towards strengthening democracy.

The YSK has yet to publish its detailed decision with a reasoning, which it is legally obliged to do.

As well as protests from the country's opposition, a number of countries have expressed concern at the court's decision.

Germany Foreign Minister on Tuesday described the decision as "incomprehensible", and the European Union has asked for an explanation.

The replay of the Istanbul mayoral election is due to be held on June 23.