Turkey's ruling party 'emptying Istanbul council office' following election loss, opposition claims

Turkey's ruling party 'emptying Istanbul council office' following election loss, opposition claims
Ekrem Imamoglu, the opposition candidate for the mayorship of Istanbul in Sunday's local elections, says he has received reports that the city's municipality office is being emptied of documents.
3 min read
02 April, 2019
The Istanbul municipality issued a swift denial of the reports [Anadolu]
Official documents are being emptied from Istanbul's municipality office in the wake of a contested local election result thatg will likely see the country's ruling Party (AKP) out of office in the Turkish city for first time in two decades, opposition politicians have claimed.

"We are receiving reports from the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality about rooms being emptied, dossiers being removed," Ekrem Imamoglu, the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate for the mayorship of Istanbul, told reporters on Tuesday.

"I will ask after every penny in Istanbul," he added, according to BBC Turkish.

Unofficial results from both the CHP and the Turkish state news agency Anadolu say Imamoglu has
won the race for the position in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began his climb towards an executive presidency in 1994.

However, the AKP has said it will contest the results in all 39 districts of Istanbul, saying it has found "excessive" voting "irregularities" and "falsifications".

The ruling party has also filed objections to the results of Sunday's local elections in the capital Ankara, where CHP candidate Mansur Yavas wrestled the long-time AKP stronghold from its grasp.

Istanbul's municipality has been controlled by the AKP and its predecessor the Welfare Party (RP) since 1994, when Erdogan became mayor of Istanbul.

Preliminary unofficial results also indicate the CHP has retained a strong grasp on its own stronghold, the coastal city of Izmir, giving the party likely control over Turkey's three most important cities.

The sudden transfer of all three of the country's economic powerhouses into opposition control as unofficial results finalised on Monday prompted concerns by opposition voices that either the government or local AKP politicians would do anything to impede a successful transition of those municipalities into opposition hands.

While some opposition voices speculated that the central AKP government will cut the budgets of local authorities - which operate with a high level of financial autonomy - if investigations into voting "irregularities" still lead to a CHP takeover. Others say this would be an unlikely path for the government to take in its three largest economic centres.

Others still wondered if the AKP would resort to sabotage by other means, such as the removal of important documents, if it lost Istanbul, the city Erdogan often described in his motto: "If you win Istanbul, you win Turkey."

The Istanbul municipality replied to Imamoglu's statements on Tuesday in a statement, declaring them to be "slander".

"Dossiers being removed" from the municipality was a "funny and simplistic" idea, the municipality said, as it runs on a digital "Smart City Management Model".

"The municipality continues to serve Istanbulites without interruption," it added.

AKP-controlled municipalities won by the CHP in Sunday's local elections have cut services including low-cost food stalls, reports in local media say.

The official results of Sunday's local elections are yet to be released by the Higher Electoral Authority (YSK) as of Tuesday due to complaints of "voting irregularities" by several parties, including the governing AKP and the leftist People's Democratic Party (HDP).

Political parties in Turkey are given three days after the polls close to register complaints with the YSK, after which the final tally could still take days to be released.