ISTANBUL/ANKARA—Election officials expanded a vote recount in Istanbul late on April 4, CNN Turk said, as the ruling party of President Tayyip Erdogan pushed its appeal against its shock defeat there in local elections.
Erdogan’s AK Party said it would also demand a wider check on votes across the capital Ankara—which initial results suggested it also narrowly lost in March 31 vote in a major blow to the establishment.
Those losses, if confirmed, would be particularly painful for Erdogan, whose party and its predecessor have dominated the two cities for 25 years. He launched his political career in Istanbul and served as the city’s mayor in the 1990s.
On April 3, Turkey’s High Election Board had ordered a full recount in three of Istanbul’s 39 districts and a recount of just invalid ballots in 15 districts after an appeal from Erdogan’s AKP.
Late on April 4, the board decided there would be a full recount in those 15 districts as well, CNN Turk said.
Turkey’s main opposition candidate in Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, told Reuters it looked like his lead had narrowed to around 19,500 votes from an earlier 25,000 as the recount progressed, but he was sure he would still become mayor.
“The results will not change. Time is passing and Istanbul is waiting for service, so we just want to get to our job as soon as possible,” said Imamoglu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP).
The AKP’s representative on the election board, Recep Ozel, told broadcaster A Haber that the opposition’s margin in Istanbul would keep falling and his candidate, ex-prime minister Binali Yildirim, would emerge the winner in Turkey’s commercial hub.
Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics since coming to power 16 years ago and ruled his country with an ever tighter grip, campaigned relentlessly for two months ahead of the March 29 vote, which he described as a “matter of survival” for Turkey.
But the president’s efforts came up against widespread anger about Turkey’s recession, which has brought surging inflation and unemployment and caused the lira to plunge.
In Ankara, opposition candidate Mansur Yavas received 50.9 percent of votes on March 31 to earn a nearly 4 percentage point victory over his AKP rival, former minister Mehmet Ozhaseki.
The AKP also appealed against those results, prompting the election board to order a recount in 11 of the city’s districts.
But AKP Secretary General Fatih Sahin said on April 4 that the results of the recount so far were “far from meeting our expectations” and the party would appeal for another recount across the city.
If the initial results are confirmed, the CHP will gain control of municipal budgets with an estimated total value of 32.6 billion liras ($5.79 billion) for 2019 in Istanbul and Ankara.
Erdogan would likely also lose some oversight for municipal contracts in the two cities, possibly complicating his efforts to drag the Turkish economy out of recession.
Ahead of the elections, the CHP formed an electoral alliance with the Iyi (Good) Party to rival the alliance between the AKP and their nationalist MHP partners. They named joint candidates in certain cities, including Ankara and Istanbul.
The AKP-MHP alliance also lost control of the southern coastal cities of Antalya, Mersin, and Adana, the central provinces of Bolu and Kirsehir, and the eastern cities of Artvin, Igdir and Ardahan.
By Yusuf Gezer & Tuvan Gumrukcu