Turkey opposition contests thousands of ballots after election

May 17, 2023 - 5:54 PM
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Supporters of Kemal Kilicdaroglu, presidential candidate of Turkey's main opposition alliance, rally outside the Republican People's Party (CHP) headquarters on election night in Ankara, Turkey May 14, 2023. (Reuters/Yves Herman)

Turkey’s main opposition party said on Wednesday it had filed complaints over suspected irregularities at thousands of ballot boxes in Sunday‘s landmark election, in which President Tayyip Erdogan performed better than expected.

Muharrem Erkek, a deputy chairman of the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP), said the irregularities at each ballot box ranged from one single wrongly counted vote to hundreds of such votes.

He said the CHP had formally raised objections over 2,269 ballot boxes nationwide for the presidential election and 4,825 for the parliamentary vote that also took place on Sunday.

Erdogan’s ruling Islamist-rooted AK Party and its nationalist allies surprised pollsters by winning a strong majority in parliament.

In the presidential vote, Erdogan is headed for a runoff on May 28 against challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu after falling just shy of the 50% threshold needed to win outright in the first round.

Kilicdaroglu, the CHP chair, received 44.9% in what was seen as the biggest electoral challenge to Erdogan’s 20-year rule. A third candidate, Sinan Ogan obtained 5.17%.

“We are following every single vote, even if it does not change the overall results,” Erkek told reporters in Ankara.

There were a total of 201,807 ballot boxes set up for the election, in Turkey and abroad, Erkek said.

The deadline for challenging the results of the presidential election expired on Monday, while that for the parliamentary vote expired on Tuesday, Erkek said, adding that the CHP had filed all its appeals within these timeframes.

The opposition alliance that includes the CHP has appealed to young voters, in particular, to turn out to support Kilicdaroglu in the runoff, saying the first round showed that Erdogan had lost the vote of confidence he had sought.

Erdogan, now in pole position, says only he can ensure stability in Turkey, a NATO member state, as it grapples with a cost-of-living crisis, soaring inflation and the impact of devastating earthquakes in February.

—Reporting by Huseyin Hayatsever and Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Gareth Jones