Turkish Opposition Claims Win in Istanbul After Vote Recount

(Bloomberg) -- A partial recount of the votes in Istanbul’s disputed mayoral election has been completed, and Turkey’s main opposition party said the new tally shows its candidate won.

The recount put the CHP party’s candidate, Ekrem Imamoglu, ahead by about 14,000 votes in the city of 16 million people, the party said on Wednesday, pending an announcement by local election authorities. Yet even if the High Election Board declares Imamoglu the winner, that isn’t likely to put the matter to rest. Local elections across Turkey on March 31 delivered some stinging losses to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party, and it has refused to concede defeat in Istanbul, the country’s commercial hub and his hometown.

On Tuesday, AKP asked the election board to nullify the Istanbul vote and hold a new election, alleging widespread irregularities. It warned authorities not to declare Imamoglu the winner until the election board decides whether to hold a revote. That has raised the prospect of renewed political turmoil just as the government sought to shore up confidence in the economy and avert a showdown with the U.S. over the purchase of Russian missiles.

“Political tension is likely to escalate if the High Election Board decides to repeat the vote in Istanbul,” Rabobank’s London-based strategist Piotr Matys said in an email. “This in turn would weigh on the lira as markets generally do not like political uncertainty.”

On Wednesday, Erdogan’s nationalist ally MHP asked for a repeat election for the district mayor and district council in Istanbul’s suburban Maltepe area, according to state-run TRT television. AKP previously did the same regarding the Istanbul suburb of Buyukcekmece, citing alleged irregularities in the registration of voters.

Erdogan held the post of Istanbul mayor at the start of his political career in the 1990s and his refusal to concede defeat has been condemned by political opponents as another attack on Turkey’s democratic foundations. It’s also rattled investors in the Middle East’s biggest economy, with the lira sliding about 3 percent against the dollar since the March 31 vote to become the worst performer of all emerging-market currencies.

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