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Turkey's election board under pressure to explain Istanbul vote annulment

Turkey's election board under pressure to explain Istanbul vote annulment

2019/05/16 | 19:15

(Hatha al-Youm | Iraq News)-

Ten days after it annulled Turkey's most dramatic election

upset in years, the country's electoral authority faces a barrage of questions

from opposition parties who say there was no legal basis to cancel the vote.The High Election Board said irregularities affected the

outcome of the March 31 mayoral election in Istanbul, when the main opposition

Republican People's Party (CHP) narrowly defeated President Tayyip Erdogan's AK

Party (AKP).It ruled that the vote in Turkey's largest city and

commercial hub, the biggest prize in the nationwide local elections, be re-run

next month because some polling officials were not civil servants, as required

by voting regulations.The decision to reverse Erdogan's rare election setback was

described by Turkey's Western allies as incomprehensible. Critics said one of

the last checks on his ever-tighter hold on power had suffered a damaging blow."The most fundamental value of our political tradition

is that the last word belongs to the national will, which is manifested in the

ballot box," Erdogan's erstwhile ally Ahmet Davutoglu, a former AKP prime

minister, said last week."The annulment decision has opened the way to damaging

these fundamental values of ours."Erdogan has ruled Turkey since 2003, first as prime minister

and then as president, winning more than a dozen elections.He remains Turkey's dominant politician, but economic

recession and a slump in the lira have eroded support for his Islamist-rooted

AKP. The CHP argues that by refusing to accept any loss of power, he is

dragging Turkey deeper into authoritarianism with the help of increasingly

co-opted institutions such as the High Election Board (YSK)."A game where those who come with elections don't leave

with elections was approved by a gang influencing the YSK," CHP spokesman

Faik Oztrak said last week. "A coup was carried out on the ballots, which

are the last bastion of democracy."Erdogan's party says it provided concrete evidence of

wrongdoing in the electoral process and the election board acted solely on the

information available. "The power of the ruling party was never used on

the YSK," an AKP official told Reuters.The AKP described the irregularities in the mayoral vote as

"organised crime" which affected the outcome. The AKP has said the

re-run of the mayoral election was aimed at ensuring the public will was

reflected in the ballot.ELECTION IMPACTThe YSK decision was passed by a 7-4 majority. Its 11 members,

all judges, are chosen by Turkey's two highest courts whose members are

selected by a judicial council appointed partly by parliament and partly by the

president.The election board has yet to publish a detailed explanation

for its decision. "When the reasoning is finished, we'll share it,"

YSK head Sadi Guven, who was part of the dissenting minority, told reporters on

Wednesday.In a May 6 statement, it said the ruling was based on the

fact that some polling stations in Istanbul were "formed illegally by the

district electoral board, and this issue impacted the results of the

elections".A day after the announcement, a Turkish lawyers group said

the irregularities cited in the YSK ruling should have been challenged before

the vote, when they were apparent.The Union of Turkish Bar Associations said the YSK had also

failed to explain how those violations had changed the result of the election,

and the ruling contradicted several previous YSK decisions.Two years ago the YSK angered Erdogan's opponents when it

ruled, in the midst of voting on a tightly fought referendum to grant the

president sweeping executive powers, that unstamped ballot papers would be

accepted - a decision which the bar associations said lifted a safeguard

against voter fraud.Aylin Ozgul Kirmizioglu, one of the four party

representatives who are allowed to observe YSK meetings, said she was stunned

to hear one of the judges first support cancelling and re-running the election."When I heard the first annulment vote, I had the shock

of my life," Kirmizioglu, from the opposition Iyi (Good) Party which was

allied to the CHP, said. "I was truly very surprised and we, as the

representatives, all looked at each other to see if we had heard right."Kirmizioglu said it was illogical for the YSK to rule the

mayoral election invalid when three other votes for local councils and

administrators submitted in the same envelopes at the same polling stations on

the same day were deemed valid.The AKP argued it was reasonable to focus on the mayoral

election because the victory margin - 13,000 votes in a turnout of nearly 9

million - was so thin.Kirmizioglu said: "It's very wrong to expect the public

to understand this, since even we as lawyers don't get it.









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