Turkey, Politics

Turkey’s ruling party voices trust in top election body

Party spokesman calls on political parties to ‘protect reputation of Supreme Election Council’

Nilay Kar   | 06.04.2019
Turkey’s ruling party voices trust in top election body Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) Spokesman Omer Celik speaks during a press conference at Le Meridien Hotel in Istanbul, Turkey on April 06, 2019. ( Erhan Elaldı - Anadolu Agency )

ISTANBUL

Turkey’s ruling party spokesman said on Saturday that objections of political parties to election results are “quite normal”, voicing confidence over the capability of the top election authority, which will have the final say.

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, Omer Celik of the Justice and Development (AK) Party said: “It is quite a normal situation. After all elections in Turkey, political parties object [to results] and the Supreme Election Council (YSK) decides on results.” 

Praising YSK's capacity to manage elections, Celik said: “We all trust the capabilities of Supreme Election Council on this. All the political parties should make themselves responsible to protect its reputation.” 

Speaking later to reporters working for foreign media outlets, Celik said that March 31 local elections “demonstrated the strength of Turkish democracy".

"The turnout was 85%, which is historic. People’s Alliance got 52% of votes while the AK Party got 45% of the votes. This is an election, where we ranked first for the 15th time.

"This was also an election, which demonstrated the strength of Turkish democracy, also from the perspective of the international observation missions," he said.

He stated that throughout the elections, foreign observation missions did not encounter any problems.

"Some 57 million voters cast votes in close to 195,000 ballot boxes. So, it is natural to have some objections and appeals."

He underlined the importance of recounting and appeal process, giving an example of Yalova province's mayoral race in the 2014 elections. 

"In the 2014 elections, the municipality of Yalova was initially won by AK Party. Upon a recount of votes, another party’s candidate became the mayor," he said. 

Underlining the importance of transparency during the recounting process, Celik said: "Regardless of the results, we will be respecting the result that will be declared by Supreme Election Council."

On Wednesday, responding to a legal contest by the AK Party, the election body decided to re-examine some votes in seven districts of Istanbul.

According to unofficial results, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem Imamoglu leads Istanbul with 48.79% of the votes, whereas Binali Yildirim of AK Party follows with 48.51% of the votes.

However, the AK Party has said a recount might change the results.

Millions of Turkish voters cast their votes nationwide last Sunday in the local elections to choose Turkey’s mayors, city council members, mukhtars (neighborhood officials), and members of elder councils for the next five years.

According to unofficial results, the AK Party is leading in 15 metropolitan municipalities (larger cities) and 24 smaller cities.

'Refrain from speculations'

Celik criticized some groups trying to portray a situation which is seen as ordinary by many western democracies as "extraordinary".

“This is such a wrong approach,” he said.

He condemned U.S. officials for making speculations about the recounting process in Turkey. 

"Spokespeople in the U.S. have been making speculations about the recounting process, which means interference in internal affairs of Turkey. That is not the right thing to do...Everyone should mind their own country," he said.

He also dispelled notions saying the AK Party and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have outlived their term as "wishful thinking".

Criticizing the opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) for supporting PKK terror group and mentioning AK Party’s gains in the eastern provinces, Celik said: “They [people] gave a good lesson to political language and style of politics of HDP.” 

In local elections, the AK Party has made crucial gains in eastern Sirnak, Agri and Bitlis provinces, a former HDP stronghold. 

With regards to Syria, Celik said, “It would be useful to reread the history of Afghanistan. They used a terrorist organization to combat another terrorist organization and, in the end, everything went out of control.” 

“Now the same mistake is being made in Syria and we would not want to see a new Afghanistan in the Mediterranean.

“We have quite good relations with Syrian and Iraqi Kurds. Just like Daesh does not represent Arabs, likewise PKK, PYD and YPG do not represent Kurds,” he said.


Reform packages 

In response to a question on whether there would be new reforms or changes in Turkey after elections, Celik said that there would be serious reforms in the economic and social fields. 

“After each election, AK Party governments always make sure that they conduct structural reforms for further success in the upcoming period.

“Soon, our relevant ministries will announce these reform packages,” he added. 

If AK Party loses municipalities in Istanbul and Ankara, it will not mind working with other municipalities regardless of which party background they have, Celik stressed. 

“We’ve always worked with mayors, who belong to opposition parties. We would never deliberately give them a hard time,” he said. 

In response to a question on whether Hagia Sophia would be converted into a mosque, he said: “We are working on a system that will allow free access [to it] just like mosques.”

Last month, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia museum, a former Greek Orthodox cathedral and later an Ottoman mosque, would be converted into a mosque.

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