Erdogan's Ruling Party Calls for Total Recount of 'Tainted' Votes in Turkey Election

Move comes after opposition took control of Ankara, Izmir and won a tight race in Istanbul

File Photo: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech at a rally of his ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) in Istanbul, March 5, 2019.
Lefteris Pitarakis / AP

Turkey's ruling party said Sunday it would appeal to the country's top election authority, demanding a full recount of votes cast in Istanbul in the March 31 mayoral election.

Ali Ihsan Yavuz, deputy chairman of the ruling AKP party, announced this as a recount of votes that were previously deemed invalid was continuing in several Istanbul districts.

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In a major upset to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the opposition took control of Ankara, the capital, the Aegean city of Izmir, and won a tight race for Istanbul in the country's local elections. Erdogan's party is contesting some results, claiming that the elections were "tainted."

Yavuz said the party is seeking a total recount of votes in 38 districts in Istanbul, not just of ballot papers that were canceled. He says the opposition party candidate's lead has narrowed to 16,442 votes as a result of the partial recount.

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 Sunday's vote, which he described as a "matter of survival" for Turkey. Despite the opposition gains, the leader declared victory.

But the president's daily rallies and near constant media coverage narrowly failed to win over the country's two main cities, as Turkey's economic downturn weighed heavily on voters. 

"The people have voted in favor of democracy, they have chosen democracy," opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said, declaring that candidates for his secularist Republican People's Party (CHP) won in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir. 

Defeat for Erdogan's Islamist-rooted party in Ankara was a significant blow for the president. Losing Istanbul, where he launched his political career and served as mayor in the 1990s, would be an even greater symbolic shock and a broader sign of dwindling support.