President Tayyip Erdogan, also AKP leader, said on Monday the local elections were marred by "organised crime" at ballot boxes in Istanbul, raising the possibility of re-running a March 31 vote in the city that handed a slim majority to the main opposition party. Erdogan's comments, his strongest challenge yet to the election process in Turkey's largest city, briefly drove the lira down and also weighed on Turkish stocks.
The AKP's election board representative Recep Ozel told reporters after a board meeting that the board had only agreed to a recount of 51 ballot boxes, spread across 21 of the city's total 39 districts. Each ballot box generally contains several hundred votes. The AK Party had also called for a full recount in the city's Buyukcekmece district, but the board has not yet ruled on that request, Ozel said. Vote recounts are continuing in the remaining districts.
Erdogan's AK Party has already lost the mayoralty in the capital Ankara to the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), and has appealed several stages of the count in Istanbul which showed a narrow CHP victory. The Islamist-rooted AKP is reeling from the potential loss of both cities, which the party and its predecessors have governed for a quarter of a century. Erdogan himself rose to prominence as Istanbul mayor in the 1990s before emerging as national leader.
Erdogan said the scale of electoral irregularities his party had uncovered meant the margin of votes between Istanbul's top two candidates, currently at less than 15,000 in a city of 10 million voters, was too narrow for the opposition to claim victory. (Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Diane Craft)
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