Main opposition Republican People’s Party mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu addresses his supporters during a gathering in Istanbul. (Reuters)
Turkey’s main opposition candidate was declared Istanbul’s mayor on Wednesday after election recounts were finally completed, despite an appeal still pending by President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party to rerun the vote in the country’s largest city.
The final result of the March 31 local elections showed a narrow victory for the secularist opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in Turkey’s commercial hub, ending 25 years of control by the AK Party (AKP) and its Islamist predecessors.
The loss is especially hard for Erdogan, who launched his political career in Istanbul as mayor in the 1990s and has triumphed in more than a dozen elections since his Islamist-rooted AKP came to power in 2002.
The Turkish lira, which has dipped since the election, firmed on Wednesday.
As he formally took office after a campaign which featured months of harsh rhetoric from Erdogan’s AK Party and more than two weeks of challenges and recounts, Ekrem Imamoglu promised to work for all 16 million residents of the city.
“We never gave up, we never gave up on our battle for democracy and rights,” he told supporters at Istanbul’s municipality building. “We are aware of our responsibilities and the needs of this city. We will start to serve immediately.”
Imamoglu’s margin of victory – the final count put him some 13,000 votes, or less than 0.2 percentage points, ahead of the AK Party candidate and former prime minister Binali Yildirim – prompted several AKP challenges.
On Tuesday, after 16 days of appeals and recounts, the AKP asked the High Election Board (YSK) to annul and rerun the election in Istanbul over what it said were irregularities. Its nationalist MHP allies made a similar request on Wednesday.
“We are aware there are ongoing processes… We hope the relevant authorities will complete these processes in the most sensitive and just way,” Imamoglu said.