Sunday, March 30, 2014

Turkey vote controversies - power blackouts , armored vehicles , numerous deaths , alleged manipulations of results -- March 30 , 2014 - LIVE: Manipulation controversy as rival parties claim lead in Istanbul and Ankara ....... Local Election for Turkey - Early report and news throughout the day -- 6 killed in Turkey local election clashes , Politicians cast their votes.........

Ongoing updates .......

LIVE: Ready-made ballots in eastern town raise eyebrows


Reports have emerged of ballot papers at one voting station in the eastern city of Tatvan, on the shores of lake Van, being annulled

After reporters remarked on Kılıçdaroğlu waiting in line for his turn to vote, the CHP head answered: 'Isn’t that normal?' AA Photo
After reporters remarked on Kılıçdaroğlu waiting in line for his turn to vote, the CHP head answered: 'Isn’t that normal?' AA Photo
More than 50 million people in Turkey are going to the polls, asextraordinary measures have been taken to secure the March 30 local elections. At least 3.5 million Turks were on the move to vote in one of the most important local elections in Turkey’s history. Meanwhile, the introduction of a new ballot-counting method might confuse some when a ban on the publication and broadcasting of the results comes to an end in the evening.

Here are live updates from the polls throughout Turkey:

01:16 -
 As counting is about to be concluded, the ruling AKP has a comfortable lead over the main opposition CHP in İstanbul, like most of the country. CHP wins a landslide victory in İzmir, while Ankara, another key battleground of the March 30 local elections, is too close to call like several other cities where the new mayors can only be announced by official results March 31. Meanwhile, Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş posed for a selfie with his staff, certain of his re-election:

00:23 - "Nobody should be upset. 77 million people should know that the new Turkey has won today. This is the wedding day of the new Turkey," said Erdoğan, thanking everybody who put in an effort for his party in the elections. Erdoğan took the stage with his family, including his youngest son Bilal, who was implicated in the December 17 corruption investigation.

23:53 - "The people have spoken: They said we are here. The montage politics have lost. The Status Quo has received a severe blow today. Dirty relations and tutelage have lost," Erdoğan said, declaring local poll victory.

23:51 -  “I thank everyone who prayed for our victory across the world,” said Erdoğan, after saluting the crowd for two minutes and quoting Palestinians, Egyptians and Syrians. “Of course, it is this people who deserve the biggest thanks. You have protected the independence struggle of the new Turkey. You have supported your prime minister, I thank you infinitely,” he said. He slammed those who vowed “chaos after 25 March,” when it was said that a major voice recording could be released. “It is true, this people has met the traitor to the nation that deigned to listen to the Foreign Ministry,” he said, regarding the latest leaks on Syria. "We will enter their den, and they will pay the price. How can you threaten our national security on Syria? Syria is currently in a state of war against us," he said.

23:43 - Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan is addressing thousands of supporters of the ruling AKP who celebrate in front of the general headquarters of the party in Ankara.

23:27 - Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç also stressed that they won a landslide victory against all odds. “People with whom we have been in very good relations until now have visited every house; they have even begged,” Arınç said, referring to Gülen's movement.

23:13 - According to semi-official Anadolu Agency, 63 percent of votes have been counted, and the AKP leads with 46.88 percent of the votes, while the CHP trails with 27.32 percent. According to private Cihan news agency, however, 54 percent of the votes are counted and the AKP leads with 43.83 percent, while the CHP trails with 27.46.

23:04 - Around 500 people who claimed that a power blackout was planned intentionally to manipulate the vote counting have surrounded a voting center in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa. Police arrived on the scene with armored vehicles to prevent the crowd from storming the school where the polling station is located. Representatives of opposition parties have also come to calm down the crowd, according to Doğan News Agency:

22:48 - The CHP kept its stronghold of the western province of İzmir, while also collecting a plurality of the votes in the Thrace and western Aegean regions. In İzmir, the party was able to get more than 50 percent of the vote, initial results show, while the ruling AKP got more than 30 percent. In the Thrace region, initial results show that the CHP won most of the votes in Edirne, Kırklareli and Tekirdağ.

22:45 - The AKP has retained its strongholds in Central and Eastern Anatolia, where it holds a strong majority of conservative voters. In the central provinces of Konya, Kayseri, Sivas and Yozgat, the party collected over 50 percent of the votes, according to initial results. In the eastern province of Erzurum, the hometown of Fethullah Gülen, the self-exiled leader of the Hizmet Movement, the AKP collected over 50 percent of the votes.

22:35 -  As the counting continues, the ruling AKP has received the highest rate of votes in three cities so far: 68.30 percent in Rize, 65.20 percent in Malatya, and 65.20 percent in Konya.

22:25 -  Three women have made history after being elected to the helm of metropolitan cities for the first time on opposite sides of the country. The AKP candidate for the southeastern province of Gaziantep, Fatma Şahin, the BDP co-mayoral candidate for the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, Gültan Kışanak, and the CHP candidate for the Aegean province of Aydın, Özlem Çerçioğlu, took over three metropolitan cities, representing three different parties and gaining remarkable support from voters.

22:20 - AKP Deputy Head and Spokesperson Hüseyin Çelik compared the CHP leader to Joe Frazier, “who always lost his fight with Muhammed Ali."  “Cihan news agency reflects the CHP’s expectations. They have started to target Anadolu Agency because the results are not in their favor,” Çelik said.

22:15 - Eskişehir Mayor Yılmaz Büyükerşen, a CHP member, has said there are power outages in nine neighborhoods in the city center, as well as the main courthouse, negatively affecting the counting.

21:35 - CHP Deputy Chair Haluk Koç: "Anadolu agency is manipulating the election results. The figures they give contradict our figures, including those we received from the High Election Council. Currently, we're leading or in a close race with the ruling AKP in all leading metropolises."

21:20 - AKP has claimed victory in Istanbul, in a statement by provincial chair Aziz Babuşçu. "According to our data, Istanbul will continue with Mayor Kadir Topbaş and the AKP," Babuşçu said, slamming the opposition for "manipulating" results. Babuşçu added that Topbaş was poised to win Istanbul with 47-50 percent of the votes.

21:15 - After his rival’s declaration of victory, Ankara's incumbent mayor Melih Gökçek, seeking a fifth term in power, has slammed “manipulations," claiming to have a 7.5 percent lead over the CHP. “The AKP is set for a historic victory,” Gökçek said.

21:11 - More anti-riot vehicles and water cannons are deployed at Taksim Square, as Doğan news agency footage shows:

21:05 - The AKP’s candidates for Istanbul and Ankara are in front with 45.27 percent and 44.48 percent respectively, according to Cihan News Agency's latest figures. They both lead by just over 1 percent after around 18 percent of votes have been counted so far in the two cities. The CHP’s Ankara candidate, Mansur Yavaş, has already declared victory in Ankara in a press conference.

20:57 - Turkey appears set for its first-ever mayor to win under the banner of the Turkish Communist Party (TKP). Fatih Mehmet Maçoğlu is poised to win the district of Ovacık in the eastern province of Tunceli (Dersim) for the TKP. He has 3 percent lead over the incumbent mayor and Peace and Democracy Party's (BDP) Mustafa Sarıgül.

20:45 - The main opposition CHP’s Istanbul chair, Oğuzhan Salıcı, has complained about unusual power blackouts in districts like Bakırköy while the votes were still being counted. Salıcı claimed that the CHP's mayoral candidate Mustafa Sarıgül won the election with 39.02 percent of the vote, ahead of the AKP's candidate, Kadir Topbaş, at 37.02 percent. Salıcı says that out of the 12,500 ballot boxes counted so far in Istanbul, the CHP is leading with 1,513,517 votes, while the AKP follows closely with 1,462,795 votes.

20:37 - Mansur Yavaş, CHP's mayoral candidate for Ankara, has declared victory over the incumbent mayor Melih Gökçek from the ruling AKP, claiming to have won "almost 50 percent" of the votes.

20:10 - Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Mustafa Sarıgül leads the race in Istanbul, while Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate Melih Gökçek is ahead in Ankara, after 10 percent of the votes have been counted. While the CHP’s vote rate in Istanbul is 45.01 percent, the AKP’s candidate Kadir Topbaş follows with 44,62 percent. Gökçek leads the race with 45.77 percent of the counted votes in Ankara, followed by the CHP’s candidate with 42.76 percent. In İzmir, with 12 percent of the votes counted, the CHP’s candidate and incumbent mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu is ahead with 52.86 percent of the counted votes, while former Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım from the AKP trails with 34.41 percent.

19:57 - The figures for initial results given by the semi-official Anadolu Agency and the private Cihan News Agency differ wildly. Anadolu reports that AKP candidate Kadir Topbaş leads in Istanbul with 50.14 percent, as 16.27 percent of votes are counted. According to Cihan, however, CHP candidate Mustafa Sarıgül leads in Istanbul with 45.53 percent, as 7.81 percent of votes are counted.

19:43 - In Istanbul, anti-riot vehicles and police water cannons have been deployed in the area around Taksim Square, presumably for potential protests.

19:41 - According to unofficial results, BDP's mayoral candidates have won in two southeastern provinces. Dilek Hatipoğlu (below) has become the first woman who has been elected as the mayor of Hakkari, while Mehmet Ali Bul has won the election in Tunceli.

19:34 - Turkey local election map as of now... (AKP: Yellow - CHP: Red - MHP: Maroon - BDP: Blue)

19:20 - In Istanbul, with 4.65 percent of votes counted: CHP 45.00; AKP 44.72 In Ankara, with 3,28 percent of votes counted: AKP 44.84; CHP 43.60


19:12 - Ahmet Öksüzkaya, a deputy from Kayseri province, has resigned from the ruling AKP. “I am sadly seeing that my personal views on democracy, law and consensus do correspond with my party’s policies,” Öksüzkaya said in a statement. (Click here for details)

19:06 - Four percent of votes are counted. The High Election Board (YSK) has not lift the restriction on publications and broadcasters yet.

18:30 - Ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Kayseri MP Ahmet Öksüzkaya has announced his resignation an hour after the start of the counting of votes.

18:27 - A record number of citizens are volunteered to observe the vote counting in Istanbul, a key battleground in 2014 local elections.

18:14 - Some 50-person group alleged to have been supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) attacked supporters of the nationalist Movement Party (MHP) at a primary school in Keçiören district of the capital city of Ankara on March 30, daily Hürriyet reports. The attackers reportedly used clubs, sticks and knives. (Click for more details)

17:30 - %1 of total votes have been counted so far. According to the High Election Board's (YSK) official regulations, results are only allowed to be broadcast after 21:00. But the board is expected to lift this restriction and allow earlier announcements.

17:00 - Voting officially ends across Turkey. But citizens who are still waiting in line may continue to vote until 19:00.

16:26 - Many Turkish celebrities are sharing their photos through social media while voting -although Twitter andYouTube are still blocked in Turkey. Singer and songwriter Tarkan is one of them:

16:06 - Sırrı Süreyya Önder, the Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) mayoral candidate for the Istanbul municipality, did not vote in the city he contended, but in his own Ankaraconstituency. When asked why he chose to vote in Ankara, hence couldn't vote for himself in Istanbul, Önder replied: "I live in Ankara and I didn't move my register to Istanbul intentionally, as I wanted to support socialist candidate Salman Kaya in Ankaraagainst nationalist candidates."

16:00 - Voting has concluded in 32 eastern and southeastern provinces of Turkey.

15:50 - Reports have emerged of ballot papers at one voting station in the eastern city of Tatvan, on the shores of lake Van, being annulled. The cancellation came after an officer reportedly stamped the outside of the ballot papers and envelopes at home, despite the fact that this final stamp must be made in front of the High Election Board’s (YSK) district officer.

15:14 – A suspect who was stopped by police officers after casting his vote in Trabzonhas committed suicide. The man, identified as S.K., reportedly shot himself in the head as police surrounded him after casting his ballot.

14:36 - So far, at least eight people have been killed in clashes between groups backing rival candidates.

14:29 - President Abdullah Gül, who voted in Ankara’s Çankaya primary school, acknowledged that the campaign had been particularly “rough.”

14:13 - Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, for his part, called on electors “to cast votes consulting their conscience,” after voting in Ankara.

13:32 - Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose government has drawn unprecedented criticism on the eve of local elections, has voted near his home in Istanbul's Üsküdar. (For details, click "Politicians cast their votes")

13:08 - In another fight between muhtar (village headman) candidates in the southeastern province Şanlıurfa's Hilvan district, six people have been killed, while five were seriously injured after the Tanık and Çelik families clashed, according to Doğan News Agency.

12:46 - Two people have been killed and nine were injured in the Kırıkhan district of the southern province Hatay during a fight between two muhtar (village headman) candidates.

12:41 - Femen has staged a protest in the Üsküdar district of Istanbul's Asian side, which is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's constituency. (Click for details) (Photo: Selçuk Şamiloğlu/Hürriyet)

12:03 - Activist group Femen has announced that its members are ready to stage a protest, which is expected to be another naked demonstration, in one of the conservative neighborhoods of Istanbul.

11:11 - Citizens will vote using three separate envelopes. An orange envelope is being used to vote for the provincial general assemblies.  A blue envelope is being used for mayoral candidates and a purple envelope is being used for the muhtar (village or neighborhood head) candidate.

 - Long lines were reported at voting centers in the early hours of the day, especially in metropolitan municipalities. Electoral participation has traditionally been high in Turkey compared to many Western countries. In the previous local elections in 2009, the participation rate was 85.19 percent. In the 2011 general elections, 83.16 percent of Turks went to the ballot box.

08:39 - A fight between two groups erupted over the elections for the muhtar in a southeastern village. In the Çiftlik village of Birecik, Şanlıurfa, two families supporting different muhtar candidates fought with clubs, knives and arms. Nine people were injured.

08:12 - The beginning of daylight saving time was postponed in Turkey because of elections this year. Clocks will be turned one hour forward tomorrow, instead of today. However, as most smartphones are changing to daylight saving time automatically, many Turks went to the ballot box before voting began. Some citizens had to wait up to one hour to vote.

08:00 - Voting has started in the western provinces of Turkey.

07:00 - Voting has started in the eastern provinces of Turkey.

Politicians cast their votes


For one day, politicians have mingled with their electors, waiting in line to cast their votes just like any other citizen.
For one day, politicians have mingled with their electors, waiting in line to cast their votes just like any other citizen.
For one day, politicians have mingled with their electors, waiting in line to cast their votes just like any other citizen.

The most prompt leader to vote was Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, who voted as usual at the Anıttepe Primary school in Ankara. “According to the information we got, the participation is quite high. Hopefully the results will be auspicious,” Bahçeli told reporters after voting.

Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek voted in Ankara’s Gölbaşı district while President Abdullah Gül was expected to cast his vote in Ankara’s Çankaya Primary school, where Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel is also due to vote.

Another party leader expected to vote in Ankara is Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who voted in Istanbul during the general elections.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose government has drawn unprecedented criticism on the eve of local elections, has voted near his home in Üsküdar. “Despite all the unwanted statements and speeches at rallies until now, our people will give the final verdict today. What the people say is what it is,” Erdoğan said, while noting that there would be a high rate of participation. “All the things that have been said will now only be history,” he added.

People’s Democracy Party (HDP) co-chair Ertuğrul Kürkçü for his part has voted in Istanbul’s Cihangir neighborhood.

Among the contenders, Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş, running for a third term, voted in Bakırköy’s Murat Koluk primary school along with his wife and son. CHP’s Ankaracandidate Mansur Yavaş, challenging ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) incumbent mayor Melih Gökçek’s fifth term, was also among the early voters.

The Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) incumbent Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir for his part voted in Şanlıurfa, where he is challenging the AKP, which currently holds the mayoralty.

Looking back at Turkey's local elections

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News

One of the most crucial elections in Turkey's history before the foundation of the Republic was the 1908 elections for Chamber of Deputies in the Ottoman Empire
One of the most crucial elections in Turkey's history before the foundation of the Republic was the 1908 elections for Chamber of Deputies in the Ottoman Empire
More than 50 million Turks are heading to the ballot box on March 30 to elect the mayors of cities and districts as well as muhtars (headmen) for villages and neighborhoods in the Turkish Republic’s 18th local elections.

Turks last went to the polls to elect local representatives on March 29, 2009.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) received the most votes in the 2009 elections with 38.9 percent of the vote, although the figure was down significantly from the total it received two years earlier in general elections.

However, the AKP managed to win two major cities, Istanbul and Ankara, in 2009, while the country’s third biggest city, İzmir, remained in the hands of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).

The ruling party had previously increased its initial support of 34.43 percent in the 2002 general elections to 42.2 percent in the 2004 local elections and then to 46.6 percent in the 2007 general elections.

In the 2009 local elections, the CHP's votes rose to 23.19 percent in the provincial council votes from 20.88 percent in the 2007 general elections and 18.23 percent in the 2004 local elections.

Support for the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) jumped significantly, with the party increasing its votes in provincial councils by 60 percent to 16.13 percent. It also doubled the number of mayoral seats it won in the previous elections.

The Democratic Society Party (DTP), the forerunner of the pro-Kurdish sister parties Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), won several municipalities, mainly in southeastern provinces. The DTP's candidate in Diyarbakır, Osman Baydemir, won the elections with 65 percent of the vote in 2009.

The Islamist Felicity Party (SP) doubled its support to 5.17 percent in the 2009 polls.

Local elections have sometimes provided a harbinger of rising political stars, even if some up-and-coming candidates failed to land a mayoral post. Present CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was not a well-known political figure until the 2009 local elections, when he ran a close race for Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, only to fall short against the AKP’s Kadir Topbaş. His campaign, however, ultimately helped propel him to the party's leadership following the resignation of Deniz Baykal.

AKP faces tough test in Turkey's local polls

Al Jazeera examines the major issues dominating debates in the lead-up to Sunday's local elections in Turkey.

 Last updated: 30 Mar 2014 05:05
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Istanbul, Turkey – Turkey is going to the polls in local elections on March 30. The vote comes amid allegations of government corruption and bribery, debates about a so-called "parallel state", and with government moves to block Twitter and YouTube heavily criticised.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP] have come out of each general election since the party was first elected to power in 2002 with more votes than before, securing nearly 50 percent of the vote in 2011 general elections.
But this election may represent the AKP’s biggest challenge to date, and is being described as a litmus test for upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. The main parties fielding candidates are Erdogan’s AKP, the main opposition party Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the pro-Kurdish Justice and Development Party (BDP).
Al Jazeera examines the major issues that have dominated discussions ahead of the March 30 polls.

Corruption allegations
The local elections first garnered attention with anti-government Gezi Parkprotests in June 2013, when thousands of people descended on a park in central Istanbul against the municipality’s gentrification plans.
The elections have been dominated by a new scandal that began on December 17 last year, when three AKP cabinet ministers’ children were arrested on corruption charges, and several government figures were implicated in graft probes.
Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republic People’s Party (CHP), has tried to make sure the graft probe remains at the centre of the election process. "The state’s conscience woke up on December 17," CHP leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, said, referring to when the first arrests were made.
Erdogan blamed rival Fethullah Gulen, the US-based head of the Gulen movement, for the recent controversies, and their feud has dominated the headlines. Erdogan described the Gulen movement as "a threat to national security" and called the Gulen movement "a terrorist organisation".
Recent opinion polls show that people are confused about the public AKP-Gulen feud. While 60 percent of Turkish people believe the corruption allegations are true, 57 percent also think that the graft probe is a coup attempt targeting Erdogan.
Ahead of the polls, various audio recordings have also leaked, with the latest reportedly showing top government and security officials discussing launching military operations into Syria. The Turkish government banned Twitter and YouTube over these leaks.
The ‘Big Three’
There is a prominent saying in Turkish politics: "The one who takes Istanbul, takes Turkey". Indeed, Istanbul is home to 9,997,000 voters, or one-fifth of the total Turkish electorate.
The AKP candidate running for Istanbul mayor is incumbent Kadir Topbas. His biggest rival is CHP candidate Mustafa Sarigul, who is currently the mayor of the city’s Sisli district, a middle-class neighborhood.
While Sarigul has brought a breath of fresh air to CHP’s campaign, AKP does not appear concerned; Topbas secured 44 and 45 percent support in the two previous elections, respectively.
In the Turkish capital, Ankara, incumbent mayor Melih Gokcek, who is representing AKP, is running for a fifth consecutive term in office. The CHP’s candidate in the city is Mansur Yavas, previously a member of the Nationalist Movement Party [MHP].
The two political rivals faced off once before, in the mayoral race in 2009, where Gokcek defeated Yavas. This time around, CHP is campaigning on the slogan, "Everybody’s mayor".
The western Turkish city of Izmir is widely known for its loyalty to Turkey’s founding leader, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and seems very likely to remain a CHP municipality.
While Erdogan wants to take Izmir this time, CHP has raised its target to winning in all 30 districts of the province.
AKP’s candidate for Izmir is former Minister of Transport, Binali Yildirim, whose has been implicated in corruption allegations, while the CHP candidate is incumbent mayor Aziz Kocaoglu.

The Kurds
According to recent estimates, Turkey’s Kurdish citizens make up 15-20 percent of the country’s total population.
While there is a lack of official data on Kurdish voting trends, a principle issue for Kurdish voters is no doubt the peace process between the AKP government and Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK].
The Peace and Democracy Party won seven out of 12 provincial municipalities in the 2009 elections, including the southeast province of Diyarbakir, while AKP won the remaining five provinces.
Looking forward
The local election results may be an indicator for Turkey’s presidential elections, which are scheduled for August 2014, and parliamentary elections set for 2015.
In previous local elections in 2004 and 2009, AKP earned 42 percent and 38 percent of the vote, respectively. Any result below those levels in the March 30 polls would be seen as a loss to Erdogan. More importantly, Erdogan may decide to call early general elections if he loses in Istanbul and Ankara.
An AKP bylaw prevents deputies from being elected to parliament for more than three terms. Unless this regulation is changed, Erdogan cannot run for prime minister for another term, as his rule is set to expire in 2015.
He can, however, run for president in Turkey’s first publicly-elected presidential elections in August.
Meanwhile, the incumbent President Abdullah Gul, a co-founder of AKP that Erdogan first nominated for the presidency in 2007, has yet to announce whether he will be a candidate in the presidential elections.
While AKP speaker Huseyin Celik said the party’s primary candidate for the presidency is Erdogan, there are also talks about lifting the three-term restriction to allow Erdogan to remain on as prime minister until 2019.

6 killed in Turkey local election clashes – reports

Published time: March 30, 2014 11:52