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Istanbul elections cancelled after pressure from President Erdogan

TURKEY’S election authorities sensationally overturned Istanbul’s local election results today after what many perceived was a direct order from authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The supreme election board (YSK) had been deliberating over a demand from his Justice & Development Party (AKP) to rerun the elections after they were dealt a humiliating defeat, losing to the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in the mayoral vote.

Its decision was announced as the Star went to press and followed weeks of protest by Mr Erdogan after his hand-picked candidate, former prime minister Binali Yildirim, lost out to the CHP’s Ekrem Imamoglu.

Mr Erdogan has pressed for a rerun of the poll citing irregularities and fraud in the conduct of the election in Turkey’s largest city.

He claimed that there was evidence of “organised crime” in the election.

Many saw it as an act of desperation, with the AKP also losing in the capital Ankara and the coastal city of Izmir.

Istanbul is the symbolic birthplace of the AKP and has been held by parties associated with Mr Erdogan for the last 25 years.

The list of nine complaints lodged by a desperate AKP included allowing public-sector workers who were sacked by decree under the state of emergency to vote. 

The Turkish state claims that the 14,000 were dismissed because of links to terrorist organisations, but opposition groups warn that it was an attempt to purge institutions including the civil services and universities from dissidents.

Yesterday’s decision came after the YSK was placed under extreme pressure from Turkey’s tyrannical ruler who appeared to issue a direct order for it to overturn the result.

Mr Imamoglu will be replaced by a government appointed interim mayor until fresh elections are held on July 14.

It is the latest power grab by Mr Erdogan following poor election results for the AKP.

The YSK ruled that a number of district-level mayor-elects – all members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) – weren’t qualified for office and runner-up candidates were eligible to become new mayors.

AKP candidates took  the mandates won in the March 31 local election, in six district municipalities in Erzurum, Van and Diyarbakir, and two town municipalities in Kars and Siirt. 

The HDP branded the decision a conspiracy by the AKP and its nationalist allies to avoid losing key seats in the east of Turkey.

“This step taken by the YSK is part of a deliberate political conspiracy, nothing else,” HDP spokesman Saruhan Oluc said.

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