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Election authority dismisses main opposition’s fraud allegations in Hatay

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Turkey’s top election authority, the Supreme Election Board (YSK), has rejected objections filed by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) alleging election fraud in Hatay, where its candidate lost the mayoral race by a margin of less than 1 percent, local media reported on Monday.

The party filed two appeals with the board, pointing out that there was only a difference of 2,569 votes between their candidate, Lütfü Savaş, and the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Mehmet Öntürk.

According to official figures released by the state-run Anadolu news agency, Öntürk won 44.48 percent of the vote in the city, while the CHP’s Savaş garnered 44.05 percent, corresponding to fewer than 3,000 votes.

The YSK gave the mandate to serve as the city’s mayor to Öntürk on Saturday, despite an earlier official request by the CHP for a vote recount.

A delegation that included the CHP’s leader, Özgür Özel, vice chair Gül Çiftçi, secretary general Selin Sayek Böke and Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavaş, also from the party, visited YSK headquarters in Ankara on Sunday.

The party representatives spoke to the press and CHP supporters who had gathered in front of the YSK building.

Çiftçi said the party had filed an objection with the YSK, demanding a recount of all votes, or at least a recount of nearly 39,000 invalid votes.

“We have identified 3,389 ballots cast in the name of deceased individuals. We demand an investigation of how these ballots were cast as well as cancellation of the election,” Çiftçi said.

Böke also said party officials had filed an objection with the YSK regarding the “unlawful” issuance of the mandate to the AKP candidate in Hatay while the legal process was still ongoing. She added that the party submitted both an ordinary appeal in line with the normal course of legal proceedings and an extraordinary appeal.

She noted that there is a margin of only 2,569 votes between Öntürk and Savaş, adding, “The responsibility to accurately reflect the valid votes cast by citizens rests on the shoulders of both legal experts and all of us today.”

Savaş released a video on X on Sunday, saying that he was in Ankara to lodge a legal objection.

“We truly have very important data that will influence this election. We believe that tomorrow the right side will prevail. Hatay will win; we will win,” Savaş said.

Savaş also made statements in front of the YSK building on Monday. Criticizing the issuance of the mandate to Öntürk, he called it an “illegal” move aimed at rushing the election results.

“The message of March 31 [elections] is to uphold the law. Please stand up for the law, democracy and justice,” Savaş said, addressing the judges of the YSK.

The CHP came under intense criticism for renominating Savaş, who had been held partly responsible for massive destruction in Hatay following two major earthquakes last year.

Hatay was one of the more than a dozen cities in Turkey’s south and southeast that were hit by two powerful earthquakes on February 6, with a magnitude of 7.8 and 7.5, claiming the lives of more than 50,000 people and leaving millions of others homeless.

Savaş and his municipality were criticized for playing a major role in the massive destruction in the province by issuing permits for construction that were not in compliance with the country’s building code or by failing to conduct oversight of construction projects.

The mayor faced angry protests from Hatay residents when he attended a commemoration ceremony for the victims of the earthquakes in Hatay on the first anniversary of the tragedy.

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