Istanbul, Turkey's most populous city, has witnessed one of the tightest election races in decades. The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) mayor candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) candidate Binali Yıldırım both claimed victory yesterday, although the ultimate outcome still remains uncertain. According to unofficial results, CHP's İmamoğlu is leading in the mayoral race for Istanbul over the AK Party's Yıldırım, the top elections authority said Monday morning. Sadi Güven, the head of Turkey's Supreme Election Council (YSK), said that İmamoğlu is currently leading with 4,159,650 votes over Yıldırım who has 4,131,761 votes under his name. Speaking to reporters in the capital Ankara, Güven said "so far a total of 31,102 ballot box results [in Istanbul] have been entered into the system, 84 ballot box results have not been completed because of objections."
Yıldırım also confirmed Monday that İmamoğlu was leading by 25,000 votes but the count is currently ongoing.
"There are 10 times more void ballots than the difference between my votes and İmamoğlu's; I will congratulate him if the election board YSK announces him as the winner but I must note that the counting process is still ongoing," Yıldırım told reporters in Istanbul, noting that there are some 300,000 ballots deemed void by local balloting committees. He added that there are 31,136 ballot boxes throughout Istanbul and if one vote was to be re-evaluated in his favor in each one, he could win since this number is greater than İmamoğlu's current lead. The ruling AK Party is ready to prove serious irregularities that may change the election results in Istanbul, the party's Provincial Chairman Bayram Şenocak also said yesterday.
"Some of the ballots for Binali Yıldırım were wrongfully recorded for CHP's candidate İmamoğlu. There are serious irregularities that may change the election results and AK Party is ready to prove them all," Şenocak told reporters at a news conference.
He continued by saying that it is evident that the void votes will significantly alter the results. AK Party Vice Chairman Ali İhsan Yavuz said that they identified 17,410 votes that were falsely recorded at 309 ballot boxes.
A similar situation occurred in the province of Yalova during the 2014 local elections. Election results were updated in favor of the CHP candidate after the re-evaluation following objections against the early victory of the AK Party candidate. İmamoğlu, speaking in Istanbul yesterday on the matter, said according to the election council 99.74 percent of the votes have been tallied, while results from 82 ballot boxes have not been counted yet.
He also pledged that if he emerges as the winner, he will serve all 16 million Istanbulites equally, without discrimination. Yıldırım had declared victory around 11:25 p.m. on Sunday; however, İmamoğlu reacted immediately saying that he maintains a comfortable lead.
Yıldırım, who played an important role in the foundation of the AK Party, first won a seat in Parliament as a deputy for Istanbul in the fall 2002 elections and served the country as the transport, maritime affairs and communications minister in the 58th, 59th, 60th, 61st and 64th governments.
He became Turkey's last prime minister in May 2016. With the constitutional changes approved in the April 16, 2017 referendum, which envisaged a new executive presidential system, it was decided that the prime ministerial post would be abolished. He was also given the to the State Medal of Honor on July 13, 2018, for his outstanding achievements in ensuring the indivisible integrity of the country and the peace and unity of society.
Prior to the announcement of his candidacy, İmamoğlu, on the other hand, had been the mayor of the Beylikdüzü district since 2014. Istanbul is the most important city in the country and whoever wins in Istanbul is generally considered as having won the majority across Turkey.