efe-epaIstanbul

Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Tuesday justified the controversial decision to re-run local and mayoral elections in the city of Istanbul claiming there were irregularities in the voting process against his ruling Justice and Development (AKP) party.

The decision from Turkey's supreme electoral council (YSK) to re-slate the ballot in the country's largest city following an appeal from the AKP, which lost the original run in what was construed as a huge blow to Erdogan's standing, has already sparked protests.

"We believe there was organized corruption, irregularities and complete anarchy in the Istanbul elections," Erdogan told party members in a speech broadcast on TV.

"We have seen that there were illegal practices related to voting lists and poll station workers.

"The fact that 20,000 of the 62,000 members of the voting committee were not civil servants heightened our concerns."

He added: " They say the AKP lost the elections by a difference of between 20-25,000 votes.

"We are ready to respect the will of the nation, but in the days that followed and after seeing the polls and the null votes, we saw a completely different picture."

The YSK accepted the AKP's petition to re-run the Mar. 31 vote on Monday. The social democrat Republican People's Party (CHP), Turkey's main opposition, narrowly won the original race for mayor in Istanbul, ostensibly bringing an end to 25 years of AKP dominance in the city.

It also won in the capital, Ankara.

The vote was seen as a referendum on Erdogan's popularity.

Following a full recount of roughly 8.8 million ballot papers, the electoral commission confirmed the victory of the CHPs Ekrem Imamoglu on Apr. 17.

The CHP has said it will run in the repeat elections slated for June 23 but slammed the decision to annul the first round.

"In this crossroad, Turkey is faced with we give our hand to all citizens who believe in democracy and have the notion of rights, law and justice, no matter which their political party and ideological affiliations are,” the party said in a statement.

"The superiority of law, separation of powers, the right to elect and to be elected are eliminated with this decision."

It branded May 6 a dark day for Turkish democracy and put the country alongside failed dictatorships in the Middle East.

Istanbul's election board had previously rejected the AKP petition.

Thousands of Istanbul residents protested after Immamoglu was stripped of his title, with some people banging pots and pans from their balconies and drivers honking their horns.

TÜSIAD, the Turkish Industry and Business Association, which brings together leaders from several major Turkish companies, on Monday released a statement expressing its "concern" about the prospect of returning to an election campaign, rather than focusing on economic and democratic reform.

Erdogan refuted that position.

"Some business groups are making strange declarations after the YSK decision," he added.

"They're doing something wrong. They should know their place.

"Without a doubt, we have our shortcomings, but what we are confronting today is complete economic sabotage."

The Turkish lira also reacted to the YSK announcement, dropping 2 percent in value.

The European Union has expressed its concern over the developments in Turkey and urged for the reasoning behind the YSK decision to scrap the Mar. 31 vote to be made available without delay.EFE-EPA

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