Sadiq Khan is poised to emerge victorious over Zac Goldsmith in the London mayoral race as counting for the closely-fought contest closes.
Labour Party candidate Sadiq Khan is set to become the first Muslim elected mayor of London, Britain’s financial center, preliminary results show.
With almost 80 percent of first-preference votes counted on Friday, Khan, the son of a Pakistani bus driver and a seamstress, is way ahead of his Conservative rival, billionaire Zac Goldsmith, in the race for the London mayoralty.
“With almost 80% of first-preference votes counted, Sadiq has won without question,” said Peter Kellner, the former chairman of the market research firm YouGov, as he watched the results come in at London’s City Hall. “He is well ahead on the first count and that’s not going to change radically.”
The 45-year-old MP was expected to win back City Hall for the Labour Party after eight years of Conservative rule, and at the end of an often bitter campaign during which Goldsmith has been accused of Islamophobia.
Goldsmith accused Khan of “pandering to extremists” and providing them “oxygen”.
Britain’s Labour party candidate for London Mayor Sadiq Khan (C), reacts as he canvasses for supporters at a market in London on May 4, 2016. (AFP photo)
Conservative Party London Mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith (L) speaks as Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (R) stands by at a campaign event in Richmond, southwest London, on May 3, 2016. (AFP photo)
Goldsmith’s “disgusting and slimy” campaign, as one voter put it, turned many voters away from the Conservative candidate and voted for Khan.
If confirmed, a Labour victory in London would be a major blow for Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives.
Vote counting for the Welsh Assembly, Northern Ireland Assembly, London Assembly and local elections are still underway.
However, Khan’s expected victory may be a lone bright spot for Labour in local elections in England, Scotland and Wales.
Opinion polls and voters suggested the Labour Party would lose seats in some traditional strongholds, which would be a blow to Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
“The Labour Party is in serious trouble, although the likely election of a Labour candidate to be London mayor will distract from that,” said Matthew Goodwin, politics professor at Kent University.
“The Labour Party is now third in Scotland for the first time since 1910 and it has failed to make a serious impression in southern England.”
Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (C) leaves his home in London on May 6, 2016. (AFP photo)
With results in from 110 out of 124 councils, Labour had 55, down one, and 1,176 seats, down 25.
The Conservatives had control of an unchanged 30 councils and 650 seats, down 23.
According to a BBC projection, the Labour Party would receive 31 percent of the vote share nationally compared to 30 percent for the Conservatives.