Erdogan backs repeat of contested Istanbul vote
ANKARA - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan signalled on Saturday he favours a re-run of a mayoral election in Istanbul which resulted in a narrow victory for the candidate of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).
Erdogan's ruling AK Party (AKP), which also lost control of the capital Ankara in the March 31 local elections, has already filed an appeal to Turkey's High Election Board (YSK) to annul and re-run the election in Istanbul due to what it says were irregularities.
The YSK is expected to rule on the AKP challenge on Monday, but it has ordered district electoral officials in Istanbul to investigate their respective ballot box officials in its interim rulings.
Speaking to Turkish businesspeople in Istanbul, Erdogan said the Istanbul elections were marred by irregularities and called on the YSK to make a decision that will eliminate controversies and clear the board's name.
"My people tell me the elections should be renewed. I have not spoken until now, I've been silent. But everyone else has spoken. Enough already," Erdogan said.
"There is a controversy here, it's clear. There is an irregularity here, that's clear too. Let's go to the people and see what they say and whatever the outcome, we will accept it," he said.
'We can only laugh'
While the CHP's Ekrem Imamoglu took office as the new mayor of Istanbul, the AKP won 25 of the city's 39 districts and earned the majority of seats in the municipal council. It has said that this proved irregularities had taken place.
Speaking to his supporters on Saturday, Imamoglu said the AKP appeals were unreasonable.
"So the 25 districts are all clean, the municipal council votes are perfect, but when it comes to the mayorship, there is an irregularity. We can only laugh at this," Imamoglu said.
The uncertainty over the results in Istanbul, which accounts for around a third of the country's economy, has also kept financial markets on edge, as Turkey tries to recover from a currency crisis that saw the lira lose more than 30 percent of its value last year.
CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said on Friday the Istanbul elections had become a test of democracy and he accused the AKP of exerting political pressure on the YSK to order a re-run of the vote.
Erdogan rejected that accusation and said his party was only exercising its legal rights.
"Claiming that Tayyip Erdogan is trying to steal an election he has no right to is the biggest insult," Erdogan said. "We are not hurling threats, we're just waiting."