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Erdogan's AKP to challenge Istanbul result after calls for recount rejected

Ruling party says it intends to challenge result of the mayoral vote after Supreme Election Board dismisses application for recount in 31 districts
Ekrem Imamoglu casts his ballot in Istanbul on 31 March, 2019 (Reuters)

Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK) has rejected calls for a large-scale recount in Istanbul’s mayoral election, but the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) indicated on Tuesday that it would continue to challenge the result.

Recep Ozel, the AKP’s representative at the YSK, said the board had agreed to a recount of 51 ballot boxes, each containing 350 votes, in 21 of the city’s 39 districts.

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The AKP had asked for a full recount in 31 districts in an election in which Ekrem Imamoglu, the candidate for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), is estimated to have beaten the AKP’s Binali Yildirim by less than 20,000 votes.

On Monday, the CHP said that 92 percent of invalid votes had been recounted and Imamoglu still held a lead of more than 15,000 votes.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, himself a former mayor of Istanbul whose AKP has dominated the city’s politics for decades, said on Tuesday that on Monday suggested that a fresh election could be held, saying that “organised crime” at the ballot boxes had influenced the outcome.

"Organised crime was committed here. There weren't only some irregularities; almost everything is irregular. We have tapes," Erdogan said on Monday, without going into further detail.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Ihsan Yavuz, the AKP deputy chairman, wrote: “It is unfathomable that such a decision should be made when there are so many irregularities. We will go once more to the YSK using the method of an extraordinary challenge."

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul later on Tuesday, Yavuz said doubts over the results would remain if the YSK rejects an appeal. 

The AKP can still apply for the result of the election to be annulled on the grounds of an extraordinary problem, and the party has called for an annullment of the election in Istanbul's Buyukcekmece district, where it says more than 11,000 people were improperly registered to vote.

A police spokesperson said on Tuesday that checks on voters records were being conducted but that there was no criminal investigation under way.