By Beyza Binnur Donmez and Sena Guler
ANKARA (AA) – Istanbul’s top two mayoral candidates on Sunday sat down for a televised debate a week ahead of a re-run of polls in the Turkish megalopolis, home to some 16 million people.
The debate between People's Alliance candidate Binali Yildirim and Nation Alliance candidate Ekrem Imamoglu at Istanbul’s Lutfi Kirdar Congress Center started under the moderation of veteran journalist and TV presenter Ismail Kucukkaya.
On why the Istanbul race went to a re-vote, Yildirim stressed that the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party’s choice was to count all the invalid votes, not hold a new election, but the opposition party failed to cooperate.
"If my vote was tallied for the CHP [opposition Republican People’s Party] or another candidate, this was theft. There’s no explanation for this," he added.
For his part, Imamoglu rejected the charge of theft, asking who had stolen the March 31 election, in which he was briefly named mayor before Turkey’s election authority overturned the results over irregularities and illegalities.
"Are your [Yildirim’s] words for AK Party polling officials, for the Good (IYI) Party, for the MHP’s [Nationalist Movement Party] or the CHP’s ? Or for the heads of balloting committees?" he asked.
Imamoglu characterized the Istanbul re-vote as part of the fight for democracy, "not just a local election."
Yildirim and Imamoglu are vying for the Istanbul mayor’s seat again after the Supreme Election Council (YSK) ordered a re-run of the March 31 Istanbul polls.
The results of the vote were canceled after the ruling AK Party and Nationalist Movement Party appealed to the council, citing irregularities and violations of election law.
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