Opposition seeks to annul mayoral election in Turkish capital Ankara

ISTANBUL (AFP) - Turkey's opposition called on Sunday for an annulment of last weekend's mayoral vote in the capital Ankara, alleging fraud by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The Ankara electoral board had on Friday rejected a bid for a recount by the Republican People's Party (CHP) of last Sunday's poll, which was narrowly won by the AKP incumbent.

The CHP challenger Mansur Yavas slammed the vote as "the most dubious in the country's history".

"It is our holy duty to protect Ankara's votes and will. We are here to defeat the dark shadow cast over our democracy," he told a news conference on Sunday. He said his party was prepared to take the issue to the Constitutional Court and even the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

The Islamic-rooted AKP scored significant victories across Turkey, winning the key prizes of Ankara and Istanbul, in the municipal elections seen as a referendum on the 11-year-rule of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

But opposition parties claim the polls were marred by irregularities including ballot stuffing, widespread power blackouts during vote counting and misreporting of results.

The elections were the first since a wide-ranging corruption scandal erupted in December implicating the premier's inner circle.

The race was especially tight in Ankara, where the AKP Mayor Melih Gokcek - in power for 20 years - scored 44.79 per cent against 43.77 per cent for Yavas.

The mayor has rejected claims of any irregularities.

Across Turkey, results were contested in more than 41 cities, and in some cases the mayor's office changed hands after a recount.

On Saturday, the authorities annulled the election in the Kurdish-majority north-eastern city of Agri after the AKP demanded a 16th vote recount.

The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party had declared victory with a wafer-thin margin of 10 votes. A new election will take place in the city on June 1.