Erdogan’s party suffers blow after Istanbul re-run poll defeat

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Turkey’s ruling AK Party has lost control of Istanbul after a re-run of the city’s mayoral election, delivering a stinging blow to President Erdogan.

With nearly all ballots counted, main opposition party candidate Ekrem Imamoglu had a lead of 775,000 votes, a huge increase on the margin of 13,000 he achieved in the earlier election.

That victory in March was annulled after the AKP alleged irregularities.

The result ends 25 years of AKP rule in Istanbul.

The AKP’s candidate, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, conceded to his opponent.

On Twitter, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote: “I congratulate Ekrem Imamoglu who has won the election based on preliminary results.”

Mr Erdogan had previously said that “whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey”. He has ruled the country since 2003 both as prime minister and now president, becoming the most powerful leader since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern Turkish republic.

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In his victory speech, Mr Imamoglu, of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), said the result marked a “new beginning” for both the city and the country. He said his supporters had “fixed democracy”.

“We are opening up a new page in Istanbul,” he said. “On this new page, there will be justice, equality, love.”

Jubilation on the streets

By Cagil Kasapoglu, BBC Turkish, Istanbul

Hundreds of supporters of Mr Imamoglu gathered in his stronghold, Besiktas. The cautious optimism that was prevalent during the early stages of vote counting gave way to a mood of total jubilation.

Hopeful youngsters celebrated and proudly waved Turkish flags. Others held banners with pictures of Atatürk on them. Some even wore masks of Mr Imamoglu.

Many of these young people have only ever known President Erdogan’s AKP in government.

For them, this is an opportunity to push for change across the country. 

“Many young people desperately want to leave Turkey,” Ayca Yilmaz, a 22-year-old university student told me. “But now, we might consider staying here. We are hopeful once again.”

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