Turkey’s opposition has dealt President Tayyip Erdogan a stinging blow by winning control of Istanbul in a re-run mayoral election, breaking his aura of invincibility and delivering a message from voters unhappy over his policies.
Ekrem Imamoglu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) had secured more than 54% of votes, with nearly all ballots opened, Turkish broadcasters said - a far wider victory margin than his narrow win three months ago.
Erdogan congratulated Imamoglu for his victory while Yildirim wished him luck as mayor barely two hours after polls closed
The previous result was annulled after protests from Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party, which said there had been widespread voting irregularities. The decision to re-run the vote was criticized by Western allies and caused uproar among domestic opponents who said Turkey’s democracy was under threat.
On Sunday, tens of thousands of Imamoglu supporters celebrated in the streets of Istanbul after the former businessman triumphed over Erdogan’s handpicked candidate by almost 800,000 votes.
“In this city today, you have fixed democracy. Thank you Istanbul,” Imamoglu told supporters who made heart signs with their hands, in an expression of the inclusive election rhetoric that has been the hallmark of his campaigning.
“We came to embrace everyone,” Imamoglu said. “We will build democracy in this city, we will build justice. In this beautiful city, I promise, we will build the future.”
The High Electoral Board has yet to announce the formal results, but Erdogan has already congratulated Imamoglu for his victory and Imamoglu’s rival, Binali Yildirim, of the ruling AK Party wished him luck as mayor barely two hours after polls closed.