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Turkey's Erdogan defends demand for full recount in Istanbul

Published
Soldiers stand as thousands of cheering supporters try to see Mansur Yavas, the new mayor of Turkish capital Ankara from the main opposition Republican People's Party, as he visits the mausoleum of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday defended his party's demand for a full recount in the Istanbul mayoral race, claiming irregularities marred "almost all" of the voting.

Erdogan suffered a major setback in the country's March 31 local elections. Opposition candidates won in Turkey's capital, Ankara, and squeezed out the president's party in Istanbul, where Erdogan served as mayor during the 25 years his Justice and Development Party and its Islamist predecessor governed the city.

A partial recount — mostly of ballot papers that were previously deemed invalid — is taking place in several Istanbul districts. Erdogan's party now is demanding a review of all ballots.

"The citizens are saying, 'Protect our rights. We are seeing that organized crimes have taken place,'" Erdogan told reporters before he left on a trip to Moscow. "As a political party, we have determined that certain organized acts were carried out."

The partial recount narrowed the lead of the opposition candidate in Istanbul. Ekrem Imamoglu originally was ahead by 25,000 votes, and the margin was down to 15,000 votes by Monday, after more than 90% of the invalidated ballots had been recounted.

An opposition alliance that backed Imamoglu has called on Erdogan to concede that his party lost. But the president said, "Nobody has the right to put on airs of victory in a city of more than 10 million voters with a 13,000-14,000-vote lead."

He added his party would accept the election results confirmed by Turkey's top electoral board.

Ali Ihsan Yavuz, a ruling party deputy chairman, said the alleged irregularities might result from a plot orchestrated by a "strategic mind." Yavuv also floated the possibility that followers of a U.S.-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016, staffed voting sites.

The opposition denounced his claim as a ploy that could lead to the election being declared invalid and Istanbul voting for mayor again.

"This is called being a spoilsport. This is being a bad loser," said Faik Oztrak, a deputy chairman of the main opposition party.

Meanwhile, the opposition candidate in Ankara, Mansur Yavas, took office as mayor Monday after receiving a document certifying his election.

"May it be Istanbul's turn next," Yavas said.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks to members of the media regarding the local elections, in Istanbul, Monday, April 8, 2019, prior to his departure for Russia. Erdogan has defended his ruling party's move to demand a full recount of votes cast in mayoral elections in Istanbul, claiming that
Mansur Yavas, the main Turkish opposition's candidate for the Turkish capital Ankara, left, receives the document from Bahattin Ozbas, the head of the election board, confirming him as the new mayor, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
FILE-In this Tuesday, March 5, 2019 file photo Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he delivers a speech at a rally of his ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) in Istanbul. The mood among opposition supporters in Turkey's biggest city is one of jubilation but also worry - fear that their win in Istanbul's mayoral race could be overturned in a recount taking place after the ruling party challenged the election results. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)
Mansur Yavas, the new mayor of Turkish capital Ankara from the main opposition Republican People's Party, stands at the mausoleum of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to pay his respects, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Thousands of cheering supporters try to see Mansur Yavas, the new mayor of Turkish capital Ankara from the main opposition Republican People's Party, as he visits the mausoleum of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Turkey's main opposition leaders, Kemal Kilicdaroglu of Republican People's Party, CHP and Meral Aksener of Good (IYI) Party, right, speak to the media as their candidate for Turkish capital Ankara, Mansur Yavas, received the document confirming him as new mayor, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead. (AP Photo)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he welcomes him prior to their meeting in Moscow, Russia, Monday, April 8, 2019. Russian President Vladimir Putin is hosting his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for talks expected to focus on the situation in Syria and their two nations' booming economic ties. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)
Mansur Yavas, the new mayor of Turkish capital Ankara from the main opposition Republican People's Party, walks to the mausoleum of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Mansur Yavas, the main Turkish opposition's candidate for Turkish capital Ankara, speaks to the media after he received the document confirming him as new mayor from Bahattin Ozbas, the head of election board, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Mansur Yavas, the main Turkish opposition's candidate for Turkish capital Ankara, speaks to the media after he received the document confirming him as new mayor from Bahattin Ozbas, the head of election board, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Mansur Yavas, the main Turkish opposition's candidate for Turkish capital Ankara, speaks to the media after he received the document confirming him as new mayor from Bahattin Ozbas, the head of election board, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Mansur Yavas, the new mayor of Turkish capital Ankara from the main opposition Republican People's Party, walks to the mausoleum of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Mansur Yavas, the new mayor of Turkish capital Ankara from the main opposition Republican People's Party, walks to the mausoleum of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Soldiers stand as thousands of cheering supporters try to see Mansur Yavas, the new mayor of Turkish capital Ankara from the main opposition Republican People's Party, as he visits the mausoleum of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Soldiers stand as thousands of cheering supporters try to see Mansur Yavas, the new mayor of Turkish capital Ankara from the main opposition Republican People's Party, as he visits the mausoleum of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Turkey's main opposition leaders, Kemal Kilicdaroglu of Republican People's Party, CHP and Meral Aksener of Good (IYI) Party, right, speak to the media as their candidate for Turkish capital Ankara, Mansur Yavas, received the document confirming him as new mayor, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead. (AP Photo)
Turkey's main opposition leaders, Kemal Kilicdaroglu of Republican People's Party, CHP and Meral Aksener of Good (IYI) Party, right, speak to the media as their candidate for Turkish capital Ankara, Mansur Yavas, received the document confirming him as new mayor, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead. (AP Photo)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks to members of the media regarding the local elections, in Istanbul, Monday, April 8, 2019, prior to his departure for Russia. Erdogan has defended his ruling party's move to demand a full recount of votes cast in mayoral elections in Istanbul, claiming that
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks to members of the media regarding the local elections, in Istanbul, Monday, April 8, 2019, prior to his departure for Russia. Erdogan has defended his ruling party's move to demand a full recount of votes cast in mayoral elections in Istanbul, claiming that "almost all" of the voting was marred by irregularities. Erdogan suffered a major setback in last week's local elections after the opposition took control of the capital Ankara and won a tight race for Istanbul. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)
Thousands of cheering supporters try to see Mansur Yavas, the new mayor of Turkish capital Ankara from the main opposition Republican People's Party, as he visits the mausoleum of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Thousands of cheering supporters try to see Mansur Yavas, the new mayor of Turkish capital Ankara from the main opposition Republican People's Party, as he visits the mausoleum of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Mansur Yavas, the main Turkish opposition's candidate for the Turkish capital Ankara, left, receives the document from Bahattin Ozbas, the head of the election board, confirming him as the new mayor, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Mansur Yavas, the main Turkish opposition's candidate for the Turkish capital Ankara, left, receives the document from Bahattin Ozbas, the head of the election board, confirming him as the new mayor, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Mansur Yavas, the new mayor of Turkish capital Ankara from the main opposition Republican People's Party, stands at the mausoleum of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to pay his respects, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Mansur Yavas, the new mayor of Turkish capital Ankara from the main opposition Republican People's Party, stands at the mausoleum of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to pay his respects, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, April 8, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party is appealing the results of the local elections in Istanbul, where the opposition has a razor-thin lead.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
FILE-In this Tuesday, March 5, 2019 file photo Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he delivers a speech at a rally of his ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) in Istanbul. The mood among opposition supporters in Turkey's biggest city is one of jubilation but also worry - fear that their win in Istanbul's mayoral race could be overturned in a recount taking place after the ruling party challenged the election results. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)
FILE-In this Tuesday, March 5, 2019 file photo Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he delivers a speech at a rally of his ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) in Istanbul. The mood among opposition supporters in Turkey's biggest city is one of jubilation but also worry - fear that their win in Istanbul's mayoral race could be overturned in a recount taking place after the ruling party challenged the election results. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he welcomes him prior to their meeting in Moscow, Russia, Monday, April 8, 2019. Russian President Vladimir Putin is hosting his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for talks expected to focus on the situation in Syria and their two nations' booming economic ties. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he welcomes him prior to their meeting in Moscow, Russia, Monday, April 8, 2019. Russian President Vladimir Putin is hosting his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for talks expected to focus on the situation in Syria and their two nations' booming economic ties. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)