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Turkey to rule on Istanbul election re-run appeal today

Turkey’s High Election Board will rule on Monday on an appeal by President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party (AKP) calling for a re-run of the Istanbul local elections that the party narrowly lost, the AKP’s mayoral candidate in the city said.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) won control of the capital Ankara and Istanbul, the country’s biggest city, for the first time in 25 years in the March 31 local elections, in a major electoral setback for the president.

Erdogan’s ruling AKP and its nationalist MHP allies have since called for the results in Istanbul to be annulled and the election to be re-run, citing what they say are irregularities that affected the outcome.

While those appeals have been pending for weeks, the High Election Board (YSK) ordered partial and full recounts across Istanbul. Istanbul’s new CHP mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, took office last month as the recounts were completed.

However, in its interim ruling on the objections, the YSK ordered district electoral officials to inspect their respective polling station officials. Prosecutors also launched probes into the alleged irregularities, calling 100 polling station workers in for questioning as suspects.

“The YSK (High Election Board) has examined our party’s and the MHP’s objections to the Istanbul election results. I believe it will make a decision tomorrow,” AKP candidate and former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters.

On Saturday, Erdogan signalled he favors a re-run of the Istanbul elections, which he said were marred by controversy, and added that renewing the vote would allow the YSK to “clear its name.”

AKP Deputy Chairman Ali Ihsan Yavuz later on Sunday told broadcaster A Para that the party was preparing to file criminal complaints on the irregularities, but that it would wait for the YSK’s ruling.

“With this many illegalities, the prosecutors won’t be able to rest. We formed a team to file criminal complaints,” Yavuz said.

Yavuz also said the AKP would file a new appeal to the YSK to block individuals dismissed through government decrees after a July 2016 coup attempt from being able to vote. The YSK rejected a previous appeal by the AKP on the same issue.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said on Sunday that authorities had found 43 polling station officials had links to the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for orchestrating the failed coup, as a result of the investigations into alleged election irregularities.

It said 41 of the suspects in Istanbul had deposited money into Bank Asya, a lender started by Gulen’s followers, and two had used ByLock, an encrypted messaging system Ankara says was used by Gulen’s network. Anadolu said the investigations were still underway.

‘A comedy’

While the CHP won the mayorship in Istanbul, the AKP won most of the districts and earned the majority of seats in the municipal council. The AKP says this proves the irregularities, but Imamoglu said on Saturday that the people could “only laugh at this.”

Speaking to supporters in Istanbul on Sunday, Imamoglu said the elections were over and the results were clear. He said he believed the YSK would make a decision to safeguard Turkey’s future.

“It has been 36 days since the elections ended. Some people are doing everything they can for the Istanbul vote not to be concluded,” Imamoglu said. “You are elected, even if it is by one vote.”

“Appealing is a democratic right, we understand this. But they find new excuses everyday,” he said. “The history of the world hasn’t seen a comedy like this.”

CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has accused Erdogan’s AKP and the MHP of putting political pressure on the YSK to re-run the Istanbul election.

Erdogan dismissed the accusations, saying his party was only exercising its legal rights.

The uncertainty over the results in Istanbul, which accounts for around a third of the country’s economy, has kept financial markets on edge, as Turkey tries to recover from a currency crisis that saw the lira lose more than 30 percent of its value last year.