Erdogan's candidate concedes defeat in Istanbul vote

Andrew Cummings
June 24, 2019

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party on Tuesday (16 April) submitted its promised appeal for the annulment and rerun of Istanbul's municipal elections, over what it said were irregularities that marred the March 31 vote.

Sellers emphasize the President's indirect threat to the opposition candidate.

Imamoğlu won support even in the traditionally pious Istanbul districts, once known as AK Party strongholds, ending the 25-year-long Islamist rule in the country's largest city.

Istanbul, Turkey -The opposition candidate for mayor of Istanbul celebrated a landmark win Sunday in a closely watched repeat election that ended weeks of political tension and broke President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party's 25-year hold on Turkey's biggest city.

However, the re-do of the election gave additional disappointment to the national leader as the previously chosen candidate gained extra votes than the earlier round.

"The significance of Ekrem Imamoglu's win in Istanbul can not be understated.... he represents a much-needed change in political discourse", Lisel Hintz, an assistant professor of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University SAIS, said.

The handover of power in the mayor's office could shed further light on what Imamoglu said was the misspending of billions of lira at the Istanbul municipality, which has a budget of around US$4 billion (RM16.55 billion).

His lead of more than 775,000 votes marked a huge increase on his victory in March, when he won by just 13,000. "I congratulate him and wish him good luck", Yildirim said.

Yildirim, Turkey's former prime minister, conceded the race on Sunday, pledging to try to help Imamoglu with "everything he will do to the benefit of Istanbulites". "God willing, I would like to see him as the president in five years' time". Analysts noted the president, who is grappling with an economic downturn and several global crises, could limit the mayor's power or undermine Imamoglu's authority in other ways.

The election board said it would announce the election results as soon as possible.

A woman displays a ballot paper as election officials count votes in a mayoral re-run at a polling station in Istanbul, on June 23, 2019. While Erdogan himself has said in the past "whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey", this defeat is the first chink in his reign as he has ruled the country since 2003.

"This is definitely going to have an impact on the future of Turkish politics given the margin of victory".

Analysts say the loss could set off a Cabinet reshuffle in Ankara and adjustments to foreign policy.

The setback for Erdogan, who campaigned hard in Istanbul, could also trigger a national election earlier than 2023 as scheduled.

He said the council will issue the certificate of election to the winning candidate following completion of the appeal process.

The uncertainty over the fate of Istanbul, Turkey's business hub, and potential delays in broader economic reforms, have kept financial markets on edge.

Turkey's defence minister said it was preparing for potential U.S. sanctions over its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence systems, even while he said there was some improvement in talks with the United States over buying F-35 fighter jets.

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