Turkey: Probe launched over irregularity claims in Istanbul polls

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The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in Istanbul’s Asian side has launched 32 separate investigations related to criminal complaint regarding irregularities in March 31 local elections in Maltepe, Ataşehir and Kadıköy districts, according to the official Anadolu Agency’s report released Thursday.

Accordingly, some of the complaints regarding irregularities committed by balloting committees during counting and data entry processes were made by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and its People’s Alliance partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), while others were filed by district election boards for criminal instances during ballot counting process.

The prosecutor’s office demanded related district election boards to provide vote count tallies and identity information of the balloting committee personnel in working in ballot boxes reported in complaints. Over 100 people, including balloting committee chairs, members, and personnel tasked with data entry, were then called in by the prosecutor’s office as suspects to provide their testimonies.

At least 10 suspects were asked to give their testimonies in an investigation over misconduct and charges related to breach of election law.

The suspects were asked whether they took part in a previous election, how the distribution of roles were carried out on the election day, how the ballot counting was carried out and whether they signed the tallies themselves.

Meanwhile, a separate investigation was launched into a newspaper’s report on balloting committee chairs and members tasked by the district election board in Maltepe. Accordingly, this investigation carried out by the organized smuggling and fiscal offenses department is related to whether balloting committee chairs and members are eligible for this task.

Speaking at a press conference, AK Party Deputy Chairman Ali Ihsan Yavuz said that they are not surprised with the investigation and a team formed by the party had been working over criminal complaints for officials involved in the alleged irregularities for a while.

The March 31 local elections in Istanbul, where Nation Alliance candidate Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Ekrem İmamoğlu was awarded with the mandate with only a 13,729-vote difference, were followed by lengthy discussions and objections by parties demanding a do-over election due to irregularities and unlawfulness in the elections. The AK Party submitted an extraordinary objection to the Supreme Election Council (YSK) two weeks ago to cancel and redo the municipal election in Istanbul.

The AK Party’s extraordinary objection concerned four categories: Irregularities in the vote count sheets, serious discrepancies between the number of registered voters and the number of voting ballots, some balloting committee chairmen and members not being government employees as required by law and the participation of ineligible voters in the polls, which they state as higher than the vote difference between the CHP’s İmamoğlu and AK Party’s Binali Yıldırım.

The YSK is expected to announce its final judgment on extraordinary objections next week after demanding Istanbul’s district election boards gather relevant evidence around objections.