Top Turkish Electoral Judges Split Over Istanbul Vote Rerun Call

(Bloomberg) -- Turkey’s top electoral body was split in deciding to order a rerun of mayoral elections in Istanbul, with its chief arguing that poll irregularities were limited and linked to several parties, including the ruling AKP.

The race was won by opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu, ending a quarter century of rule over Turkey’s biggest city by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party and its predecessor. The AKP challenged the veracity of the vote, and in a ruling this month that reinforced fears of backsliding in Turkish democracy and fueled declines in the currency, the High Election Board ordered a new ballot for June 23.

In a 250-page report released late on Wednesday, the board said seven judges backed the move, while four opposed. It said that the reliability of the March 31 vote had been “seriously damaged” by irregularities, including the appointment of ineligible ballot officials and a failure to provide a party by party tally for 30,000 votes in 108 ballot boxes. More than 300,000 votes were tainted, it said.

Top Turkish Electoral Judges Split Over Istanbul Vote Rerun Call

Imamoglu of the opposition CHP had defeated the AKP’s Binali Yildirim, a former prime minister, by the narrow margin of about 14,000 votes in a city with 10 million registered voters.

But Sadi Guven, the board’s head who was among the four dissenting judges, said the discrepancies over vote officials wasn’t a valid reason to cancel the entire election, according to the reasoning. AKP members were among the ballot officials who had failed to sign party breakdowns at 101 of the 108 boxes in question, he said, giving a much smaller number of “irregular” ballots.

Imamoglu said on Wednesday that the board’s decision was taken under heavy pressure from the president. The CHP has questioned why the board only canceled the vote for mayor when ballot slips for Istanbul’s district mayors, municipal councils and other local posts were placed in the same envelope.

“The reasoning of the electoral body looks like a summary of the AK Party’s claims of irregularities,” said Muharrem Erkek, the party’s deputy chairman. “A trap has been set up for democracy.”

Erdogan is going all out to win back the mayor’s office in the commercial hub, which accounts about a third of the economy and is where he started his political career.

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