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.


Kosovan women returned from Syria face house arrest

Updated 24 April 2019
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Kosovan women returned from Syria face house arrest

  • Four alleged militants, all men, were arrested the moment they were brought to the country
  • The state prosecution said all 32 repatriated women are under investigation

PRISTINA: Kosovo prosecutors have requested the house arrest of 16 women repatriated from Syria, saying they are suspected of joining or taking part as foreign fighters there.

The women appeared on Wednesday in court in Pristina, a day after 10 other women were put under house arrest. None have been charged with a crime.

Four alleged militants, all men, were arrested the moment they were brought to the country.

The women and children were sent to the Foreign Detention Centre in the outskirts of Pristina but were freed to go home after 72 hours.

Ten women were seen entering Pristina Basic Court in a police escort on Tuesday. The court said in a statement later that they had been placed under house arrest on charges of joining foreign armed groups and terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq from 2014 to 2019.

The state prosecution said all 32 repatriated women are under investigation and more of them are expected to appear in front of judges on Wednesday. The prosecution has yet to file charges.

After the collapse of Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, countries around the world are wrestling with how to handle militants and their families seeking to return to their home countries.

Kosovo's population is nominally 90 percent Muslim, but the country is largely secular in outlook. More than 300 of its citizens travelled to Syria since 2012 and 70 men who fought alongside militant groups were killed.

Police said 30 Kosovan fighters, 49 women and eight children remain in the conflict zones. The government said it plans to bring back those who are still there.

International and local security agencies have previously warned of the risk posed by returning fighters. In 2015, Kosovo adopted a law making fighting in foreign conflicts punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

On Saturday, 110 Kosovar citizens — the four alleged foreign fighters, 32 women and 74 children — were returned to Kosovo with assistance from the United States, the first such move for a European country.

Authorities say there are still 87 Kosovar citizens in Syria.