Former Turkish PM accuses opposition of seeking "foreign support" in contested mayoral election

Former Turkish PM accuses opposition of seeking "foreign support" in contested mayoral election
Former Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim lashed out at the opposition CHP on Wednesday, accusing his rival of seeking 'foreign support' and inciting protests.
3 min read
04 April, 2019
The former prime minister also accused his CHP rival of inciting protests [Getty]

Former Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Wednesday scolded the Turkish opposition, telling the rival Republican People’s Party (CHP) to stop seeking "foreign support". He also accused the party of inciting protests, local media reported.

Yildirim, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate for the mayorship of Istanbul, is currently contesting the verdict of Sunday's local elections, the unofficial results of which granted a razor-thin majority to opposition CHP candidate Ekrem Imamoglu.

The AKP on Tuesday announced they would contest "excessive" voting "irregularities" in all 39 of the metropolis' districts.

A recount of incorrectly filed or invalid votes by the Higher Electoral Board (YSK) is currently underway in Istanbul and the capital Ankara, a long-time AKP stronghold also seized by the CHP according to unofficial results, as well as in other provinces across the country.

"Getting foreign mayors to call you [Imamoglu], and receiving messages of support from foreign countries is irritating the Turkish nation. You’ve no right to do this," Yildirim told reporters on Wednesday, according to Deutsche Welle Turkish.

"As a more experienced politician than yourself, it is extremely disturbing… at this stage."

Multiple European politicians, including the mayor of Paris, have come forward to congratulate Imamoglu on being elected as mayor of Istanbul.

For AKP supporters, these messages of support are premature, as is Imamoglu's labeling of himself as Istanbul's new mayor.

The CHP politician was the target of much ire when he signed the guestbook at Anitkabir, the grave of Turkey's founder Ataturk in Ankara, as the "mayor of Istanbul" on Tuesday.

Yildirim was also subject to heavy censure after prematurely declaring himself the winning candidate on Sunday evening, when incomplete unofficial results showed only a knife-edge lead for the AKP candidate.

By Monday, both unofficial results from the state news agency  and the chief of the YSK said Imamoglu had won the mayorship.

Before then, posters had been put up across the city, Turkey's largest, thanking voters for electing Yildirim as Istanbul's new mayor. Many still remain up, despite heavy criticism by opposition voices.

"We won in 24 districts and 180 municipal councils seats in Istanbul - shouldn't we thank [the voters]?" responded Yildirim on Wednesday.

The CHP have now begun to put up their own victory posters across the city, while official results remain to be announced by the YSK.

Responding to the CHP's own posters, Yildirim said: "What's wrong with thanking the people of Istanbul after the election?"

A final decision by the official authority could take days still.

Yildirim also condemned Imamoglu's "irresponsible" behaviour, accusing the mayoral candidate of trying to interfere with the recount process and decrying his "acting as if he is the new mayor of Istanbul."

"Stop hinting that you'll bring people out on to the streets", warned the former prime minister.

Opposition voices rebutted that the CHP politician had simply asked volunteers not to leave district YSK offices in order to ensure the recount went according to the rules, and had not made any statements indicating a desire for public protest.
Imamoglu himself later issued a rejection of Yildirim's harsh words.

"The nation is smiling thanks to me. Children are running up and hugging me. We won't irritate anyone," said Imamoglu, according to dokuz8NEWS.

"I wish you'd spared a single sentence for Anadolu Agency, which really has irritated the country."

Imamoglu on Tuesday called for the head of Anadolu to resign, citing what many opposition voices have called "biased" coverage by the state-run agency.