Head of Turkey's Supreme Electoral Council, (YSK) says it is recounting votes in 18 districts of Istanbul following weekend local elections. Nationwide, the 57 million-strong electorate voted for representatives in 81 provinces and some 1,000 towns.

Officials begin the process of counting ballots after polls closed during local elections in Istanbul, Turkey, March 31, 2019.
Officials begin the process of counting ballots after polls closed during local elections in Istanbul, Turkey, March 31, 2019. (Reuters)

Recounting of votes in 18 Istanbul districts underway

Invalid votes cast in 15 districts of Istanbul in Turkey's local elections, as well as all the votes cast in three districts, are being recounted, Anadolu news agency said on Wednesday.

Initial results from Sunday's mayoral elections showed the opposition Republican People's Party had narrowly won control of Turkey's two biggest cities, Istanbul and Ankara. 

Istanbul has 39 districts.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party submitted objections to election results in all districts of the two cities, saying the results had been impacted by invalid votes and voting irregularities.

Votes in eight Istanbul districts to be recounted

Turkey's Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) will recount local election votes in eight districts of Istanbul after objections, YSK head Sadi Guven said on Wednesday.

The Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP), which had earned a narrow victory over the AK Party according to initial results, had appealed the recount, prompting the YSK to halt them late on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters in Ankara, Guven said that the recount would mostly focus on invalid votes, adding that this was not an unprecedented decision. Appeals to the YSK were still ongoing, he said.

Earlier, the district electoral councils of Sile, Bayrampasa, Atasehir, Umraniye, Beykoz, Fatih and Gaziosmanpasa decided to reassess votes that were initially deemed invalid after the governing Justice and Development (AK) Party filed appeals with the councils.

However, the Istanbul Provincial Election Council decided to halt the review and recount of these votes following an appeal by the CHP.

The AK Party filed an objection over the decision.

The YSK then held an extraordinary meeting to discuss the Provincial Election Council’s decision and decided to overturn it.

On Tuesday, the AK Party officially challenged poll results in 39 district municipalities under the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.

Bayram Senocak, the party’s Istanbul provincial head, said it had found "significant discrepancies" in poll results.

In the Istanbul mayor’s race, Ekrem Imamoglu of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), with 48.79 percent of the votes, currently has a narrow lead over the AK Party’s Binali Yildirim, with 48.51 percent.

"We have detected rigs and irregularities that violate the legislation and a fair election environment from the start of the voting process," Senocak said.   

The governing party also contested poll results in 25 districts in the capital Ankara.

Mansur Yavas, the CHP's mayoral candidate in Ankara, is leading with 50.91 percent of votes, according to unofficial results, with the AK Party's Mehmet Ozhaseki trailing at 47.1 percent.   

Erdogan's alliance leads nationwide in local polls

With 99,83 percent of the ballots counted in Turkey's local elections by Monday, the governing Justice and Development (AK) Party-led People's Alliance leads the polls.

The alliance has won around 51.7 percent of the nationwide vote, according to unofficial results. 

Election officials continue to count ballots cast in Sunday's local elections but the country awaits official results from the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK).

The Nation Alliance, led by Republican People's Party (CHP), has raked in around 37.6 percent nationwide, with wins in Ankara, Izmir and leading in Istanbul.

However, the result for Istanbul remained too close to call as both alliances claimed victory there and vote count was still underway.

President Erdogan addressed his supporters from Ankara after unofficial results came in from over 50 out of 81 provinces. 

“The only reason why we lost some cities is that we could not express ourselves enough to some voters,” he said.

“If we have objections [with the electoral commission], we will raise them. Do not forget, every cloud has a silver lining. This is the struggle for democracy," Erdogan said.

Yildirim says rival seems to have 25,000 more votes

AK Party's candidate Binali Yildirim on Monday said the main opposition CHP's candidate Ekrem Imamoglu was ahead by around 25,000 votes in Istanbul mayoral race.

"There are 31,136 ballot boxes. If one vote is filled in incorrectly in each ballot box, this equals 31,136 votes, which is more than the difference," said Yildirim.

He said invalid votes outnumber vote difference tenfold, adding that Turkish election council to have final say.

Invalid votes impacted outcome, says AK Party

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, Bayram Senocak, the AK Party's Istanbul provincial head, said his party had "plenty of" evidence showing irregularities in the votes and added that it was evident these irregularities had an impact on the outcome.

CHP says 'everybody won'

Turkey's main opposition leader said late on Sunday that people sided with democracy during the local elections.

“We have experienced every kind of injustice, but people sided with democracy. This is very important for us,” Kemal Kilicdaroglu said in his speech after Sunday's polls.

Describing the election as a "success", he said: “This is an election done democratically and humanely, and success gained by this election will be welcomed not only by us but all over the world, as democracy is improving in Turkey.

"We say: 'Turkey won.' After this election, everybody won."

“We are ready to fulfil all our duties in overcoming Turkey's economic crisis," he added.

Turkish citizens exercise their democratic right

According to YSK, voting started in 32 provinces at 0400 GMT and ended at 1300 GMT. In the remaining provinces, polling stations opened at 0500 GMT and closed at 1400 GMT.

More than 44 million Turkish citizens were expected to vote in 30 of the largest cities, the metropolitan municipalities. Another 12.8 million voters were estimated to cast their ballots in another 51 provinces. 

Initial results for mayoral wins:

57. Istanbul

CHP's candidate is leading in the mayoral race in Istanbul, Turkey's most populous city, over the governing AK Party, the Turkish elections authority said on Monday morning.

Sadi Guven, the head of YSK, said CHP's candidate Ekrem Imamoglu is leading with 4,159,650 votes over the AK Party's Binali Yildirim with 4,131,761.

Speaking to the reporters in capital Ankara, Guven said "so far a total of 31,102 ballot box results in Istanbul have been defined to the system, 84 ballot box results have not been completed because of objections."

AK Party swept the metropolis of Istanbul, winning 24 out of 39 district mayoral seats in the city, where nearly one-fifth of Turkey’s population lives.

In comparison to the AK Party’s 24 district wins, the main opposition CHP took 14 districts, and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) took one, according to unofficial results on Monday. 

56. Ankara

CHP's mayoral candidate Mansur Yavas in the capital Ankara won the majority of votes from the ballot box where AK Party candidate cast his vote.

Yavas pulls in 49.74 percent of the vote in Ankara with more than half the ballot boxes opened.

The AK Party on Monday said it will object to invalid votes and irregularities during the elections.

"We have identified invalid votes and irregularities in most of the 12,158 polling stations in Ankara," Fatih Sahin, general secretary of the AK Party said after Sunday's polls.

"We will use our legal rights to the fullest, and we will not allow the will of our citizens to be altered in Ankara," Sahin said on Twitter.

55. Izmir

CHP's candidate Mustafa Tunc Soyer elected mayor of Izmir province.

54. Konya

AK Party's candidate Ugur Ibrahim Altay takes Konya province.

53. Canakkale

Ulgur Gokhan, who was running from CHP's ticket, wins in Canakkale province.

52. Diyarbakir

Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) wins with candidate Adnan Selcuk Mizrakli.

51. Samsun

AK Party's candidate Mustafa Demir elected mayor of Samsun.

50. Sanliurfa

Zeynel Abidin Beyazgul, AK Party's candidate, wins in the southern province.

49. Osmaniye

MHP's candidate Kadir Kara elected mayor of Osmaniye province.

48. Bolu  

CHP's candidate Tanju Ozcan wins in Bolu province.

47. Hakkari

HDP's candidate Cihan Karaman elected in the south-eastern province.

46. Mardin

Ahmet Turk, HDP's candidate, wins in Mardin.

45. Sinop

CHP's candidate Baris Ayhan elected mayor. 

44. Kirsehir

Selahattin Ekicioglu, CHP's candidate for Kirsehir, wins.

43. Batman

HDP's candidate Mehmet Demir wins the province.

42. Kars

HDP's Ayhan Bilgen elected mayor of Kars.

41. Kastamonu

MHP's candidate Rahmi Galip Vidinlioglu elected mayor.

40. Tunceli

Communist Party of Turkey candidate Fatih Mehmet Macoglu wins mayoral polls in the eastern province.

39. Igdir

MHP's candidate Isa Yasar Tezel elected mayor.

38. Kahramanmaras

Hayrettin Gungor from the AK Party elected mayor.

37. Adiyaman

AK Party's Suleyman Kilinc elected mayor. 

36. Corum 

AK Party's Halil Ibrahim Asgin elected mayor. 

35. Bartin

MHP's candidate Cemal Akin elected mayor of Bartin province.

34. Trabzon

AK Party's candidate Murat Zorluoglu wins in the northern coastal province.

33. Ordu

Mehmet Hilmi Guler wins the province from AK Party's platform.

32. Aksaray

AK Party's Evren Dincer elected mayor.

31. Kayseri

AK Party's candidate Memduh Buyukkilic wins in Kayseri province.

30. Karabuk

MHP's candidate Rafet Vergili elected in Karabuk province.

29. Duzce

AK Party's candidate Faruk Ozlu elected mayor.

28. Erzurum

Mehmet Sekmen, candidate fielded by the governing AK Party, wins. 

27. Siirt

HDP's candidate Berivan Helen elected mayor in the eastern province.

26. Zonguldak

AK Party's Omer Selim elected mayor.

25. Usak 

AK Party's Mehmet Cakin wins in Usak province.

24. Erzincan

MHP's Bekir Aksun elected the province's mayor.

23. Afyonkarahisar

The governing party's Mehmet Zeybek elected mayor in Afyonkarahisar province. 

22. Kirikkale

Mehmet Saygili, the AK Party candidate nabs Kirikkale.

21. Agri

AK Party's candidate Savci Sayan elected mayor.

20. Gumushane

Ercan Cimen, the AK Party's candidate, elected mayor.

19. Sakarya

AK Party's Ekrem Yuce wins.

18. Nevsehir

AK Party candidate Rasim Ari elected in Nevsehir province.

17. Giresun

AK Party's candidate Aytekin Senlikoglu takes Giresun province.

16. Karaman

MHP's candidate Savas Kalayci elected mayor.

15. Bingol

AK Party's candidate Erdal Arikan wins in Bingol.

14. Elazig

The governing party's candidate Sahin Serifogullari elected mayor.

13. Malatya

AK Party's Selahattin Gurkan elected mayor in Turkey's Malatya province.

12. Burdur

CHP's candidate Ali Orkun Ercengiz elected mayor of southwestern Burdur.

11. Ardahan

CHP's Faruk Demir elected mayor of the north-eastern province.

10. Sirnak

AK Party candidate Mehmet Yarka wins the south-eastern Sirnak province.

9. Tokat

AK Party's candidate Eyup Eroglu elected mayor.

8. Nigde

AK Party's candidate Emrah Ozdemir wins Nigde.

7. Gaziantep

AK Party's candidate Fatma Sahin elected mayor in Gaziantep.

6. Rize

AK Party's candidate Rahmi Metin elected mayor of Black Sea province of Rize.

5. Bilecik

CHP's candidate Semih Sahin elected mayor of Turkey's northwestern Bilecik province.

4. Sivas

AK Party's candidate Hilmi Bilgin has been elected mayor of central Sivas province.

3. Kilis

AK Party's candidate Mehmet Abdi Bulut elected mayor of southern Kilis province in Turkey's local elections.

2. Artvin

Main opposition CHP's candidate Demirhan Elcin has been elected mayor of Turkey's northeastern Artvin province.

1. Bitlis

AK Party's candidate Nesrullah Tanglay has been elected mayor of eastern Bitlis province, Anadolu Agency reported, citing unofficial results.

This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly

Source: AA