Appeals and recounts spark frustration as Istanbul vote count enters third week

Repeated AKP challenges to the initial results have led to growing frustration among supporters of the main opposition CHP. (AFP)
Updated 15 April 2019
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Appeals and recounts spark frustration as Istanbul vote count enters third week

  • A second recount of votes in an east Istanbul district have been ordered
  • The loss of Ankara ended 25 years of control over the capital by the AK Party and its predecessors

ANKARA: Electoral officials ordered a second recount of votes in an east Istanbul district on Monday, after two weeks of appeals by President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party against results showing it had narrowly lost control of Turkey’s largest city.

Repeated AKP challenges to the initial results have led to growing frustration among supporters of the main opposition CHP, which spilled over onto the football terraces at the weekend when Istanbul’s top teams played two derby matches.

“Give the mandate, give Imamoglu the mandate now,” fans of Besiktas and Fenerbahce chanted, as their teams played current league leaders Basaksehir, whom Erdogan has said he supports, and runners-up Galatasaray.

The secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu, who attended both matches, holds a slim lead of around 0.2 percentage points over his AK Party rival, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, according to initial results of the March 31 local elections.

Major blow

The loss of Ankara ended 25 years of control over the capital by the AK Party and its predecessors. Defeat in Istanbul, where Erdogan was mayor in the 1990s, would be an even greater blow to the president who has dominated Turkish politics through a decade and half of repeated election triumphs.

On Monday, electoral officials in the Maltepe district of Istanbul, where a recount of votes in 1,089 ballot boxes had already been underway for nearly a week, ruled for a fresh recount after an appeal by the AKP and their nationalist MHP allies, broadcaster NTV said.

The appeal centered around an AKP objection to the additional teams brought in to speed up the recount, and means more than half the votes in the district must be recounted again.

Objections filed

The AKP has already filed several other objections across Istanbul and has appealed to annul the elections in another district, Buyukcekmece.

The High Election Board (YSK) has said it would wait for all recounts across the city to be completed before ruling on the AKP’s appeal to annul results in Buyukcekmece.

After that it may have to rule on a call by Erdogan — not yet formally submitted by the AKP — for the entire Istanbul election to be annulled over what the party said were irregularities that affected the outcome.

An appeal for annulment of the entire Istanbul election could probably be lodged only after the YSK has announced the final results.

CHP lawmaker Baris Yarkdas said his party has asked the YSK to consider previous recounts as valid and to speed up recounts across Istanbul by forming 100 new counting teams.

“The AKP-MHP was planning to get different results by having the ballot boxes in Maltepe recounted. When the results did not come out as they wished, they are now not signing the record sheets of the judges (officials) so the count can’t be finished,” Yarkdas said on Twitter.


Warning to Turkish artists as singer is jailed for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

Updated 21 July 2019
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Warning to Turkish artists as singer is jailed for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

  • Actress and singer Zuhal Olcay was charged with insulting Erdogan using hand gestures at a concert in Istanbul in 2016
  • Turkey’s appeals court has upheld an 11-month sentence, originally imposed last year but suspended

ANKARA: Accusations of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may lead to a jail sentence — even if the “insult” is in private, analysts told Arab News on Saturday.

Turkey’s appeals court has upheld an 11-month sentence on actress and singer Zuhal Olcay, 61, after a complaint that she had changed lyrics of songs and used hand gestures to insult the president at a concert in Istanbul in 2016.

The revised lyrics said: “Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it’s all empty, it’s all a lie. Life will end one day and you’ll say ‘I had a dream’.” Olcay said she had changed the lyrics only because the president’s name fitted the rhyme.

The court confirmed a sentence originally imposed last year, which had been suspended. The singer is expected to spend up to three days in prison, before being released on probation.

“This case highlights the blurring of the public and private spheres.”

Louis Fishman Academic

“Zuhal Olcay is an artist with great stature, and this case shows that no one is out of reach of a judiciary that increasingly has little independence from the government,” Louis Fishman, an assistant professor at City University of New York, told Arab News.

“The message is clear; artists in Turkey should be silent or face legal consequences that can be drawn out for years and eventually lead to prison,” said Fishman, an expert on Turkey.

He said it was significant that the hand gesture at the center of the case had happened at a private concert, and the prosecution began only after it was reported to police by someone in the audience.

“Therefore, this case also highlights the blurring of the public and private spheres,” he said. 

“In other words, there is a growing fear in Turkey of criticizing, or ‘defaming’ Erdogan, not only in public, but also in private. In both cases, vigilant citizens can report such alleged cases to the police.”