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Opposition candidate wins Istanbul election rerun

June 23, 2019

Opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu has taken the lead in a high-stakes rerun of Istanbul's mayoral race. The results deal a blow to President Erdogan's ruling party, which had called for the redo of the vote.

Ekrem Imamoglu speaks to supporters in Istanbul
Image: Presseabteilung von Ekrem İmamoğlu

Opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu took the lead over the ruling party candidate in the repeat race for Istanbul's mayor, according to initial results released on Sunday.

Imamoglu secured 54% of the vote while his rival, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, garnered 45.1% of the vote with over 99% of the city's ballots counted, according to results posted by Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency.

Imamoglu, who is a member of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), said his victory marked a "new beginning" for Turkey.

"It was not a single group or party, but the whole of Istanbul and Turkey that won this election," the opposition politician said, adding that he was ready to work with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to solve the problems facing Istanbul.

Yildirim conceded defeat in the election shortly after the first results were announced, saying: "I congratulate him and wish him success." Erdogan also offered his congratulations to the opposition candidate on Twitter.

Opposition supporters took to the streets of Istanbul following the release of the results, but his win still needs to be confirmed by Turkey's electoral board, DW's Julia Hahn reported.

Election officials decided to cancel the results of the first vote in March after Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) alleged that there had been cases of vote rigging and corruption.

In the first election, Imamoglu won by just 13,000 votes, with 48.8% of the vote, compared to Yildirim's 48.5%.

Around 10 million people were eligible to vote in the rerun election, with unofficial results putting voter turnout at 84%. 

Read more: Germany wary as Istanbul votes under shadow of Erdogan

Major blow to Erdogan

Sunday's vote and the nationwide local elections in March were seen as a referendum on Erdogan's policies and the popularity of his ruling party. Although the AKP won a majority of the local elections, the party lost the mayoral seat in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

The second defeat in Istanbul, Turkey's largest city and financial capital, has dealt a major blow to Erdogan and his AKP and could have larger political repercussions.

Analysts say the AKP loss in Istanbul could lead to a Cabinet reshuffle or possibly trigger a national election earlier than the one currently scheduled for 2023.

As he cast his ballot earlier on Sunday, Erdogan — who served at the city's mayor in the 1990s — said he hoped that voters would "make the best decision for Istanbul."

The Turkish president has tightened his grip on power since a failed military coup in 2016, launching a crackdown on rights groups, civil society and opposition activists.

rs/amp (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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