Erdogan’s AKP demands formal rerun of Istanbul vote

Opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) mayoral candidate, Ekrem Imamoglu, waves to the crowd during a rally in Istanbul on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 16 April 2019

Erdogan’s AKP demands formal rerun of Istanbul vote

  • The AKP had demanded a recount and vowed to appeal for a new vote in Istanbul
  • Opposition candidate CHP Ekrem Imamoglu has accused the AKP of “unfair play” and declared himself mayor

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party on Tuesday formally demanded a rerun of Istanbul’s local ballot after contesting last month’s election results that gave the opposition the victory.

Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) got most votes nationwide in the March 31 election but its loss of the capital Ankara and Istanbul, the country’s economy hub, was a major setback after a decade and half in power.

The AKP had demanded a recount and vowed to appeal for a new vote in Istanbul, citing alleged irregularities, after the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) won the city by a slim margin.

The Supreme Electoral Council, known by its Turkish initials YSK, must now rule on whether the AKP’s formal demand for a new election has any merit.

“We have come here to submit our extraordinary request for the election for the Istanbul metropolitan municipality to be annulled and repeated,” AKP deputy chief Ali Ihsan Yavuz told reporters outside the YSK.

Local media showed images of AKP officials wheeling suitcases containing what they said was evidence of electoral irregularities into the YSK headquarters in Ankara.

It was unclear how long YSK officials could take to rule on the appeal, but lingering uncertainty over the Istanbul result more than two weeks after the ballot is one factor worrying foreign investors and weighing on the lira.

A new Istanbul election would be held in June 2 if the appeal is recognized, according to local media.

A recount of void ballots in Istanbul is still ongoing after the AKP said it found irregularities in several districts.

Opposition candidate CHP Ekrem Imamoglu has accused the AKP of “unfair play” and declared himself mayor. But the margin between him and the AKP’s Binali Yildirim remains very tight.

A defeat in Istanbul would be especially sensitive for Erdogan, who grew up in one of its deprived neighborhoods and built his political career after being Istanbul mayor himself in the 1990s.

The AKP has won every election since it came to power 17 years ago. But voters appeared to punish the party this time after a currency crisis last year badly hurt Turkish households and pitched the economy into recession.

Erdogan himself has described the Istanbul vote as marred by “organized crimes” and last week called for the ballot to be annulled.

After the ballot, electoral authorities had said CHP’s Imamoglu was ahead by nearly 30,000 ballots. But that margin has narrowed to around 14,000 after a recount of void ballots over the last fortnight.

The CHP said on Tuesday the margin was now around 13,800 ballots in favor of its candidate with only around 80 ballot boxes left to count. Each candidate had won around 4 million votes.

Although he was not personally running in the election Erdogan campaigned hard in the city, presenting the vote as a matter of national survival. He put forward Yildirim, a former premier and AKP heavyweight, as the party candidate.

Imamoglu, a former mayor of a local Istanbul district, ran a low-key campaign, rallying door to door to talk over local issues. He is already being credited with having revived the opposition’s profile nationwide.


Sudanese celebrate transition to civilian rule

Updated 40 min 10 sec ago

Sudanese celebrate transition to civilian rule

  • Members of the Transitional Military Council and protest leaders are expected to sign the documents that will govern the 39-month transition
  • Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir is leading Saudi Arabia’s delegation at the ceremony

KHARTOUM: Sudan was poised Saturday to celebrate a historic deal between generals and protest leaders for a transition to civilian rule, which many hope will bring increased freedom and prosperity.
During a ceremony to be held at a hall by the Nile in the capital Khartoum, members of the Transitional Military Council and protest leaders are expected to sign the documents that will govern the 39-month transition.
“Today, the country begins its historic transition to democracy,” read the front page of the Tayar newspaper, a headline echoed by most other dailies.
But the road to democracy remains fraught with obstacles, even if the mood was celebratory as foreign dignitaries as well as thousands of citizens from all over Sudan converged for the occasion.
The deal reached on August 4 — the Constitutional Declaration — brought an end to nearly eight months of upheaval that saw masses mobilize against president Omar Al-Bashir, who was ousted in April after 30 years in power.
The agreement brokered by the African Union and Ethiopia was welcomed with relief by both sides — protesters celebrated what they see as the victory of their “revolution,” while the generals took credit for averting civil war.
Hundreds of people boarded a train from the town of Atbara — the birthplace of the protests back in December — on Friday night, dancing and singing on their way to the celebrations in Khartoum, videos shared on social media showed.
“Civilian rule, civilian rule,” they chanted, promising to avenge the estimated 250 allegedly killed by security forces during the protests.

The Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir is leading Saudi Arabia’s delegation at the ceremony in Khartoum, Saudi Press Agency reported.

Al-Jubeir is being accompanied by the Saudi Minister of State for African affairs Ahmed Abdul Aziz Kattan and the Saudi ambassador to Sudan Ali bin Hassan Jafar.

After Saturday’s signing, Sudan kicks off a process that includes important first steps.
The composition of the civilian-majority transition ruling council is to be announced on Sunday.
On Thursday, former senior UN official Abdalla Hamdok, a veteran economist, was designated as transitional prime minister.
He is expected to focus on attempting to stabilize Sudan’s economy, which went into a tailspin when the oil-rich south seceded in 2011 and was the trigger that sparked the initial protests.
At Khartoum’s central market early Saturday, shoppers and stallholders interviewed by AFP all said they hoped a civilian government would help them put food on the table.
“Everybody is happy now,” said Ali Yusef, a 19-year-old university student who works in the market to get by.
“We were under the control of the military for 30 years but today we are leaving this behind us and moving toward civilian rule,” he said, sitting next to tomatoes piled directly on the ground.
“All these vegetables around are very expensive but now I’m sure they will become cheaper.”
While it remains to be seen what changes the transition can bring to people’s daily lives, residents old and young were eager to exercise a newfound freedom of expression.
“I’m 72 and for 30 years under Bashir, I had nothing to feel good about. Now, thanks to God, I am starting to breathe,” said Ali Issa Abdel Momen, sitting in front of his modest selection of vegetables at the market.
But many Sudanese are already questioning the ability of the transitional institutions to rein in the military elite’s powers during the three-year period leading to planned elections.
The country of 40 million people will be ruled by an 11-member sovereign council and a government, which will — the deal makes clear — be dominated by civilians.
However, the interior and defense ministers are to be chosen by military members of the council.
Observers have warned that the transitional government will have little leverage to counter any attempt by the military to roll back the uprising’s achievements and seize back power.
Saturday’s official ceremony is to be attended by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and several other regional leaders.
Security forces deployed across the city for the biggest international event to be held in a long time in Sudan, which had become something of a pariah country under Bashir’s rule.
One of the most immediate diplomatic consequences of the compromise reached this month could be the lifting of a suspension slapped on Sudan by the African Union in June.
Bashir, who took power in a 1989 coup and is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide in the Darfur region, had been slated to appear in court Saturday on corruption charges.
But his trial has been postponed to an as yet undetermined date.