Thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets of Turkey’s capital on Monday to demand a recount in the municipal election that saw Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) sweep up a majority of the votes on Sunday, despite challenges to his rule in recent weeks.
The AKP’s victory was deeply disappointing to many Turks who had rallied in protest over allegations of corruption, his ban on social media sites, and the harsh police response to protesters.
The election results are not yet official, but have been reported to give the AKP 44 percent of the national vote, versus the 26 to 28 percent received by the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Turkey’s main opposition party. Still, this does not seem to have changed authorities’ propensity to crack down on peaceful protesters.
On Monday, Ankara police fired water cannons on the crowd that had gathered in front of the Supreme Electoral Council to demand a recount in the local mayoral race.
The protests there followed the announcement by a leader of the CHP that he would appeal the result of the local vote after the AKP’s mayoral candidate for Ankara, Melih Gökçek, announced his victory before all votes were counted.
"We will file our objection today, I think it will affect the result," the CHP's Deputy Head Bülent Tezcan told reporters.
In addition to Ankara, the CHP is also challenging the result in the southern city of Antalya, a CHP stronghold that fell to the AKP in Sunday’s election. The CHP's defeated mayoral candidate for Istanbul also called for a recount there.
"Whatever the election results are, it will unfortunately go down in the history of our democracy as a dubious election," Mustafa Sarigul, the defeated mayoral candidate in Istanbul, told reporters.
The videos below show protesters outside Ankara’s electoral council on Monday.
Protesters demanded a recount of the mayoral vote in Ankara.
In the video below, Ankara police fire a water cannon to disperse protesters.
Police in Ankara fired a water cannon on peaceful protesters.
As many denounced the vote as rigged, hundreds of young volunteers rushed to the CHP headquarters to join teams comparing the official ballots with voter registration figures provided by Turkey’s supreme electoral council.
“They are not matching,” Banu Kepenek, one of 3,500 volunteers asking for a recount in Ankara, told VICE News. “People think that the results and votes were fabricated.”
Kepenek, who like other volunteers said she is independent of the CHP, said the ruling party “celebrated their own victory when only 40 percent of the votes were counted.”
Cem Ucar, another volunteer, told VICE News that up to “90 percent” of voter lists they examined did not match those registered with the electoral council.
“We have no connection with any party, but we have requested them to give us the possibility to observe the voting process,” Ucar said, adding that the interior ministry is obstructing requests for a recount.
“It’s a mayoral election, but the political atmosphere in this country right now is not only about this election, or one mayor,” he added. “In practice, this is a show of the AKP, for the whole country. If they lose Ankara or Istanbul, they will lose popularity.”
Meanwhile, in the southern province of Osmaniye, reports emerged that bags of ballots marked for the CHP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), another opposition party, were thrown out. The ballots were allegedly found in trash bags near six local schools used as polling stations.
Both opposition parties filed complaints, and local police are investigating the incident.
At least eight people were killed and 27 people were wounded Sunday in clashes between supporters of rival candidates.
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